Hawthorn trees (Crataegus laevigata), Sceach Gheal in Irish, also called Whitethorn are in flower at the moment, providing a beautiful white boundary amongst the hedgerows around green fields all over Ireland. It is described as a bush or a small tree and has beautiful white flowers (important for bees and other insects) and lobed leaves. In Autumn bountiful, edible, red berries appear, which birds such as blackbirds and thrushes love, lots of migrating and visiting birds also feast on them during the winter, including redwings and fieldfares. It is widely used as a hedging plant as it grows steadily and can be ‘stretched’, the branches can be trained to cover up gaps in a hedge. It’s also considered to be a fairy tree and it is believed to be very bad luck to cut one down or even remove a branch, work was interrupted on the N18 road from Limerick to Galway because a fairy tree stood in its path.
The leaves, flowers and ripe berries can be used in herbal herbal medicine. Hawthorn is a great remedy for the heart and circulation, it is a cardiovascular tonic, it has the power to both stimulate and relax the heart, it can also help lower high blood pressure and reduce high cholesterol levels. The berries are mostly used for herbal purposes. As the berries are a deep red colour it was thought in olden time that this would be a good indication of it’s heart- and blood-healing properties. Alcoholic tinctures, powders, syrups, cordials and wine can be made from the plant, teas can be made from the fresh and dried leaves and berries. Hawthorn also helps digestion and was widely use in olden times to help digest meat and fats.