fbpx Whitethorn | The Morton Arboretum


Whitethorn or English hawthorn is a small tree that can be utilized under power lines, but it may be difficult to find in nurseries. Typical of hawthorns, this species has white flowers in spring, followed by red fruits. Stems bear one inch long thorns.

Botanical name:

Crataegus laevigata

All common names:

whitethorn, English hawthorn

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • Wide median,
  • Under utility lines

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

15-20 feet

Mature Width:

15-20 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Dangerous thorns,
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Pink,
  • Red,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • No


  • Insect pollinators,
  • Migrant birds

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

This tree is thorny and should be sited carefully.

Disease, pests, and problems

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

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe.

Bark color and texture 

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

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves, 1/2 to 3 inches long;  3 to 5 lobed; toothed margins.
Leaves are dark green in summer, with very little color change in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White flowers in broad clusters; late spring.  There are cultivars with pink or red flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

This tree yields persistent red fruits (pomes) that may grow as large as 1/2 inch.

Location of Crataegus laevigata (Whitethorn) at the Arboretum