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Cockspur hawthorn

Cockspur hawthorn in full flower.

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.  

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.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Crataegus crus-galli

All common names:

cockspur hawthorn

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Screen,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Dangerous thorns

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fall color,
  • Persistent fruit/seeds,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • 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 & Form

Rounded with horizontal branching, reaching 20 to 25 feet high and 25 feet wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Full sun in well drained soil. Tolerant of high pH soil and clay.
Site this tree in front of evergreens for winter effect.
This species tree has very long thorns and should be sited carefully; cultivars are nearly thornless.

Disease, pests and problems

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

Disease, pests and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity, salt spray, drought and air pollution.

Native geographic location and habitat

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

Bark color and texture 

Bark is rough and slightly shaggy with age.
This plant has 2 to 3 inch long 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 

“This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn  (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) :  Rounded, 25 feet high and wide; deep glossy green leaves turn orange red in fall. This variety has thornless stems.

Crusader™ Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis 'Cruzam'): A medium multi-trunked tree reaching 20 to 30 feet high and wide with horizontal branching habit.Thornless.

Location of Crataegus crus-galli (Cockspur hawthorn) at the Arboretum