“Show Me” the Thorns!

Hopping up from Mississippi, we are arriving to a state in the exact center of the country – Missouri – whose state floral emblem is a tree flower – the White Hawthorn (Crataegus punctata).

The small tree grows well in Missouri’s climate, lining streets and yards across the state. Hundreds of species of Hawthorn exist. State lawmakers did not single out a specific Hawthorn when naming it as the Missouri state flower, providing residents with no guidance about which plant’s bloom to call their own.

The White Hawthorn.

Each spring, Hawthorn trees produce the Missouri state flower. These pretty white blossoms are made up of five petals, bear greenish-yellow stamens, and appear in globe-like clusters over the Hawthorn tree. Their numbers help to attract the pollinators needed to produce its valuable fruit. Hawthorn fruit resembles an apple yet is less than an inch across. It is a favorite source of nutrition for wildlife and can be used to make jams and jellies. Hawthorn fruits are also used in some herbal medicines.

Hawthorn Berries are said to be an effective cure for high blood pressure.

In addition to its fruit, the tree on which the Missouri state flower grows is valued by wildlife for its ability to provide shelter. It grows quite thick and can reach heights of up to 25 feet. Such dense proportions make it an ideal home for numerous birds and mammals.

The thorns on a Hawthorn are real and up to 3 inches long.
Birds, including this Cedar Waxwing, love Hawthorn berries.
A light snowfall enhances the color of the berries.

The National Arbor Day Society surprised me this past Spring and gave Washington Hawthorn seedlings to all its members. I stuck mine in the ground, left it alone, and it doubled in size over the summer. Now I have to find a sunny location to transplant it come Spring. The Hawthorn is an underutilized landscape tree: perhaps, homeowners shy away from the thorns but I understand their are several new varieties of thornless Hawthorn trees and that may make them more attractive. One last look at a Hawthorn bloom before we skedaddle to the Northwest and the Big Sky country of Montana. Here the state wildflower was named after Lewis and Clark in their famous early 19th century explorarion of the upper Missouri River. Of course, the Native Americans knew of this plant a millenium before botantists attributed it to Meriwether Lewis. But first – the State Flower of Missouri!

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