TREES & plants

Cockspur hawthorn

Cockspur hawthorn is a Chicago-area native that provides beautiful 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. White flowers in the spring, persistent red fruit, and the orange-red fall color of this Midwestern native make it a nice addition to the four-season landscape.

Botanical name: 
Crataegus crus-galli
All Common Names: 
cockspur hawthorn
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Hedge
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Small tree (15-25 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
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Dangerous thorns
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms
  • Fall color
  • Persistent fruit/seeds
  • Showy fruit
  • Showy flowers
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Broad
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • No
  • Game birds
  • Migrant birds
  • Nesting birds
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Size and Form

20 to 30 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide; broad rounded habit with distinctly horizontal branching.

Tree & Plant Care

Site this tree in front of evergreens for winter effect.
This tree has very long thorns and should be sited carefully.

Disease, pests and problems

Cedar rust diseases, fireblight, leaf spots, scale and mites

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2
Common in pastures, forest edges and thickets.

Attracts birds & butterflies

This plant is a larval host to the striped hairstreak, and red-spotted purple butterflies.
Hawthorn also provides food to many species of birds as the fruit persists well into winter.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is rough and slightly shaggy with age.
This plant has 2-3” thorns on the stems.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

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

Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)photo: John Hagstrom

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

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

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

This tree yields persistent red fruits (pomes).

Cultivars and their differences 

Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn  (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) :  This variety has thornless stems.