Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hawthorn trees and wildlife

Berries of the Washington hawthorn, Crataegus phaenopyrum

These cheery red berries are the autumn fruit of a thorny little Washington hawthorn tree I planted about a dozen years ago. I got it in a bundle of ten free ornamental trees from Arbor Day Foundation.

Washington Hawthorns bloom late in spring, so this tree's blossoms were not affected by the late freeze last spring. It's loaded with berries. In fact, I think it has the most fruit of any tree I've seen this fall. Many of the fall-fruiting trees and shrubs have nothing at all because their blossoms were frozen.

American Wildlife and Plants (see bibliographic info at the bottom of this page) has the following comment about hawthorn berries:

The small apple-like fruits are not used by wildlife to nearly so great an extent as might be anticipated. Fox sparrows and cedar waxwings are the principal songbird users.

The authors note that up to 25% of the diets of fox sparrows and cedar waxwings may consist of hawthorn berries, in areas where hawthorns are common. They also list about a dozen birds and over a dozen small and large animals that include small amounts of hawthorn berries in their diets (up to 2% of their total diet.)

In a winter of scarce food, I suspect those birds and animals would be glad enough to find a hawthorn tree full of berries.

Hawthorns belong to the rose family, as you might guess when you experience their long, sharp thorns. They are a favorite nesting place for birds. The mockingbirds have a nest in this tree every year.

2 comments -- please add yours:

drb said...

Thanks for posting this -- I saw a tree with red berries yesterday when walking. I had to be one of these -- I'm from the west. The trees I know now, besides mesquite and post oak, I learned after we moved here to Memphis.

Genevieve said...

It could well have been a Washington Hawthorn, as they are native to Tennessee and all the Southeast USA. You'd know it was some kind of a hawthorn if it had the combination of red berries and long thorns. There are a great number of different native hawthorn shrubs and trees.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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