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TREES & plants

Downy hawthorn

A mature downy hawthorn tree.

Downy hawthorn has the typical white flowers and red fruit of hawthorns, but is not always as thorny as other species. This native tree is beautiful, but is prone to the cedar rust diseases. 

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.

Botanical name: 
Crataegus mollis
All Common Names: 
downy hawthorn
Family (English): 
Rose
Family (Botanic): 
Rosaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet), 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
Mature Height: 
20-30 feet
Mature Width: 
20-40 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Dangerous thorns, 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries, 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Fall color, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Late spring, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Broad, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • No
Wildlife: 
  • Game birds, 
  • Insect pollinators, 
  • Migrant birds, 
  • Nesting birds, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

This tree has very long thorns and should be sited carefully.

Disease, pests, and problems

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

Disease, pests, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

 

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2
This species is common throughout the Midwest, found in a variety of habitats.

Bark color and texture 

The bray bark is rough and slightly shaggy with age.
This plant has 1 to 2 inch long thorns on the stems.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves, 2 to 4 inches long and wide;  doubly-toothed margins; very hairy early in the season .
Fall color is yellow-brown.

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 red fruits (pomes).

Crataegus mollis or Downy hawthorn