Tilero, pan y quesito, majuelo Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
It is a deciduous tree, four to six meters high, with thorny branches, hairless and serrated leaves, deciduous, white flowers, fragrant and in corymb, and edible fruit, ovoid in shape, covered with tender and reddish skin that contains a sweet pulp and a single seed, hence its name, rarely appearing two.
They can be shrubs or small trees from five to fourteen meters high, with a dense crown. The bark is thick and brown with vertical orange cracks. The youngest stems have blunt spines, one to 1.5 cm long. Leaves 2 to 4 cm long, obovate and deeply lobed, sometimes almost to the center, with the lobes open at a wide angle. The upper side is blackish green and pale on the underside.
The flowers are borne in late spring (May to June in its native area) in corymbs of five to twenty-five together; each flower about one cm in diameter, with five white petals, numerous red stamens, and a singular style; they are moderately fragrant. Late in the season it bears numerous small, oval, dark red fruits about 1 cm long, cherry-like, but structurally a knob containing a single seed. Fruits are important for wildlife in winter, particularly birds that eat them and disperse them in their droppings.
It differs from its less expanded relative Crataegus laevigata in its deeply lobed, detachable leaves and flowers with only one style, not two or three. However, they are inter-fertile and hybridization is frequent; only distinguishable in their typical forms. In the south of the Iberian Peninsula appears the variety Crataegus monogyna subsp. brevispina.
It is found naturally throughout Eurasia and North Africa. Because of its spectacular flowering, it has been introduced as an ornamental plant in Madeira, North America, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.
It is abundant throughout the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands, but scarce in the southern area where it is located in mountains and valleys. It can be found in almost any type of forest, where it usually forms hedges together with other thorny species (brambles, wild roses, etc.).
Although it tolerates summer droughts poorly, it is capable of growing in a wide range of substrates.
It is planted as a hedge, especially for agricultural use. Its thorns and closed branches make it a good barrier to enclose livestock and prevent the passage of people. There are several hybrids, some as garden shrubs. The most commonly used hybrid is Crataegus × macrocarpa(C. monogyna × C. laevigata; syn. C. × media), of which several cultivars are known, including the very popular ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ with dark pink double flowers. Another garden shrub that would involve the common crataegus is Crataegus heterophylla from the Caucasus, which is rare in parks and gardens.
Regarding its medicinal use, the active ingredients of its flowers are: tannin, flavonoids, essential oils, triterpenes and purine derivatives. Those of its fruits: tannins, flavonoids, pigments and vitamins. It is used in infusion to treat various heart and circulatory problems and to support therapy with Digitalis[.
As food, the young leaves are good in salads; and the fruit, being edible, is used to make jams, wine, and to add flavor to brandy.
One famous specimen, the Glastonbury hawthorn, had the peculiarity of flowering twice a year, once in late spring (as is usual for hawthorns), and again during the winter, once its hardest times had passed. Although the original Glastonbury Abbey specimen is long dead, it has been possible to reproduce this characteristic in the cultivar (cultivated variety) ‘Biflora’.
The oldest known specimen in East Anglia, and perhaps the UK, is known as “The Old Hethel Hawthorn”, and is found near the church in the small village of Hethel, south of Norwich in Norfolk. Sec believes that it is more than 700 years old, and would have been planted in the s. XIII.
In English, the saying that reminds us of the convenience of keeping warm clothing until late spring(ne’er cast a clout ’til may is out) does not refer to the end of the month of May, but to the flowering of the hawthorn (‘may’). It is the equivalent of the Spanish proverb“hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo” (don’t take your hat off until the fortieth of May).
In Gaelic folklore, the hawthorn (in Gaelic, Sgitheach) marks the entrance to the Otherworld and is associated with fairies.It is very unfortunate to cut the tree except when it has already sprouted, when it is decorated as the “May Bush” (see Beltane).These trees are found in Celtic mystical pilgrimage areas; these types of sacred shrubs are known as ‘rag trees’, because of the strips of cloth draped over them as part of sacred rituals.