Hawthorn and the story of the May wishing tree #ffotd#ff17

The delicate white flowers of Hawthorn

This is my first flower of the day post for May so what could be more suitable than May blossom. In late April and early May hedgerows and fields in England are filled with the delicate white flowers of hawthorn. The hawthorn (crataegus) is a native tree associated with celtic folklore and especially with May day and the start of summer. The old saying “cast ne’er a clout til May be out” is likely to refer to the flower rather than the month. This year we have had the sunniest April on record and we were able to shed our clouts early. Indeed police were warning people not to sunbathe at the beginning of the month.

hawthorn blossom
A hawthorn bush in full blossom

Hawthorn has been common in Britain for millennia, pollen counts showing its presence here at least 6,000 years ago. In Celtic folklore the Hawthorn is associated with fertility and the flowers appear as part of the wreath of the green man. It was considered unlucky to bring the blossom indoors. It is said that the smell reminds people of death.

Pink hawthorn blossom
Pretty in pink

A cloutie  or wishing tree

Recently there has been a revival of interest in the cloutie tree or wishing tree. People select a suitable tree and tie pieces of cloth to the branches and make a wish. This year people are particularly anxious and I spotted this one on the Stoke Park Estate. It is amazing how far you can see across Bristol without the usual pollution.

A wishing or cloutie tree with brightly coloured rags tied to the branches
A cloutie tree


For foragers it is good to know that both the flowers and leaves are edible and in Autumn the red haw berries can be made into jam or jelly. The  small sturdy trees are also popular with nesting birds as their thorns provide protection against predators.

This post will be added to Cee’s flower of the day photo challenge and Brashley photography Floral Friday photo challenge.



Author: Anne Fraser @theplatinumline.blog

I am a retired nurse from Bristol. I am married with five grown up children, two grandchildren, a boy and a girl and two cats Heidi and Tilly. I like rambling, history and travel and I am hoping to connect with other people around the world who share my interests. I am especially keen to hear from other older bloggers.

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