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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):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay 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

Seasons 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


  • 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).

Location of Crataegus mollis (Downy hawthorn) at the Arboretum