Content Detail

Whitethorn, or English hawthorn, is a small tree that can be utilized under power lines. It may be difficult to find in nurseries. Typical of hawthorns, this species has white flowers in spring, followed by red fruits. The stems bear 1 inch long thorns.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks, Under utility lines, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Mature height 15-20 feet
  • Mature width 15-20 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, Red, White
  • Shape or form Broad, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations Dangerous thorns, May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators, Migrant birds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Whitethorn is native to Europe.

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is rough and becomes slightly shaggy with age. This plant has thorns on the stems.

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

The simple, alternate leaves are 1/2 to 3 inches long, three to five lobed, with toothed margins. The leaves are dark green in summer, with very little color change in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

White flowers in broad clusters appear in late spring. There are cultivars with pink or red flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

This tree yields persistent red fruits (pomes) that may grow as large as 1/2 inch.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift