Washington thorn

Aubépine de Washington

Crataegus phaenopyrum (L.f.) Medic.Rosaceae (rose family)

Origin: Eastern U.S.A.


Washington thorn is a small tree with numerous sharp slender thorns.

Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs


Leaves are shiny, most often triangular with a pointed tip and two lobes close to the base.

Read more about Leaves


Flowers are small and white, borne in compact clusters.

Read more about Flowers


Fruits are orange to red, small, round, and shiny. orange to red.

Read more about Fruit


Washington thorn is a small tree, up to 10 m (33') tall, with a broad rounded crown.

There are numerous sharp slender thorns up to 8 cm (3 1/8").

Bark is light brown and smooth.

Bark develops thin scales that flake off to reveal orange inner bark.

Twigs are shiny brown with slender thorns.

Return to top of page


Leaves are shiny, 4 - 6 cm (1 1/2" - 2 1/2") long, variable in shape, often triangular with a large central lobe and two lobes at the base.

The edges of the leaf is has small irregular lobesd and teeth.

Leaves are arranged alternately on the branch.

In the fall, leaves turn yellow, orange or red.

Return to top of page


Flowers are small, about 12 mm (1/2") wide, with 5 white petals and about 20 stamens.

Flowers are borne in compact clusters

Flowers appear in late spring (mid-June), later than any other hawthorn.

Return to top of page


Fruits are small, round, up to 6 mm (1/4") across, shiny orange-red in colour, borne in loose clusters.

Fruits have a persistent calyx like an apple. Immature fruits are green.

Fruits mature in October and remain on the tree during winter and into spring.

Return to top of page



Washington thorn is native to the southeastern United States, from Virginia to Florida and west to Arkansas and Missouri. It has become naturalized in the northeastern states.

Derivation of names

The genus name, Crataegus, is the classical Greek name for hawthorns. It is derived from the Greek word kratos, meaning strength. The species name, phaenopyrum, means "resembling a pear," from the Greek words phaino, to show, and pyrum, meaning pear, possibly a reference to its flowers. Washington thorn earned its common name when it was brought to Pennsylvania as a hedge plant from Washington, DC.

Return to top of page

Washington thorn IN TORONTO

Washington thorn's place in Toronto's urban forest

Washington thorn is planted in parks as an ornamental tree. It is valued for its colourful autumn foliage, its attractive flowers, and its bright, presistent, orange-red fruits.

Landscape value and potential for home planting

Although it is normally shrubby in the wild, cultivated Washington thorn can grow into a small tree suitable for urban lots. It grows best in moist soils and is moderately tolerant of air pollution.

The cultivated variety 'Vaughn,' which is a cross between Washington thorn and cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli) produces abundant fruit.

Pests and diseases: Washington thorn is highly resistant to many diseases and pests, especially cedar-hawthorn rust, which afflicts many other species of hawthorns.

Return to top of page

WHERE CAN I SEE Washington thorn?

Links to maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

Return to top of page


Return to top of page