Though distributed as a wild tree throughout
the length and breadth of the British Isles, we
are all more familiar with the Hawthorn as planted
material in the construction of hedges, and this
is a use to which it has been put ever since land
was plotted out and enclosed.
Where the Hawthorn is allowed its natural growth,
it attains a height of forty feet, with a circumference
between three and ten feet. On our commons, where
in their youth the Hawthorns have to submit to
much mutilation from browsing animals, their growth
is spoiled; but though some of these never become
more than bushes tangles up with Blackthorn into
small thickets, there are others what form a distinct
bole and a round head of branches from ten to
twenty feet high, which in late May or early June
look like solid masses of snow.
The well-known lobed leaves are very variable
in both size and shape, and the degree to which
they are cut. They are a favourite food with horses
and oxen, who would demolish the hedges that confine
them to the fields but for the spines which protect
at least the older branches.
The white flowers are about three-quarters of
an inch across, borne in numerous corymbs. The
pink anthers give relief to the uniform whiteness
of the petals. The flowers, though usually sweet-scented,
occasionally give forth a very unpleasant odour.
The familiar fruits, too, instead of their usual
crimson, are yellow occasionally, as in the Holly.
In favourable years these are so plentiful that
they quite kill the effect of the dark-green leaves,
and when such a tree is seen in the October sunshine,
it appears to be glowing with fire. Beneath the
ripe, mealy flesh, there is a hard, bony core,
in whose cells the seeds are protected from digestion
when the fruit has been swallowed by a bird.
The Hawthorn is said to live from a hundred to
three hundred years. Its wood is both hard and