Content Detail

Cockspur hawthorn is a Chicago-area native that provides white flowers in spring and persistent fruit in fall and winter. This species should be used with care as it has long thorns and is prone to disease. Spring flowers, persistent red fruit, and the orange-red fall color of this Midwestern native make it a nice addition to the four-season landscape.  

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 20-30 feet
  • Mature width 20-35 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, early spring, mid spring, late spring, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Broad, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations Dangerous thorns
  • Wildlife Game birds, Migrant birds, Nesting birds, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Rounded with horizontal branching, cockspur hawthorn achieves 20 to 25 feet high and 25 feet wide at maturity.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 2. Native to eastern and southeastern United States as well as eastern Canada. Common in pastures, forest edges, and thickets.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is rough and slightly shaggy with age. This plant has 2 to 3 inch long thorns on the stems.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple, alternate leaves are 1 to 4 inches long. They are a dark, glossy green, rounded at the tip and narrow at the base. Fall color is purplish.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are unpleasantly scented. The small, creamy white flowers bloom in broad, flat clusters in late spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

This tree yields persistent red fruits (pomes).

Plant care:

Cockspur hawthorn requires full sun in well-drained soil. It is tolerant of high pH soil and clay. Proper siting of this tree is important. When planted in front of evergreens, the persistent berries on the tree create a winter effect. This species tree also has very long thorns which can cause injury. The cultivars are nearly thornless.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

Cedar-rust diseases, fire blight, leaf spots, scale insects, and mites can be a problem. Tolerant of black walnut toxicity, salt spray, drought, and air pollution.

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Thornless cockspur hawthorn  (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) :

Rounded and 25 feet high and wide, this cultivar has glossy, deep green leaves turn orange red in fall. This variety has thornless stems.

Crusader™ thornless cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis ‘Cruzam’):

A medium, multi-trunked tree reaching 20 to 30 feet high and wide with horizontal branching habit. Also a thornless cultivar.


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