This year – don’t ask me why – I decided to follow the Celtic Tree Calendar and so I am already in the 6th month which celebrates the hawthorn, (Crataegus monogyna), called Huath by the ancient Celts. The hawthorn month starts on May, 13th and finishes on June, 9th. The previous month, from April, 13th to May, 12th was the willow and following on from the hawthorn will be the oak. This month, praising the hawthorn makes sense when I look around and see all the wonderful hawthorn blossom in trees and hedges in Tayport.
The hawthorn is an elegant, thorny shrub which rarely grows very tall and is most likely, as on the Coffin Walk near my house, to be a hedge. The leaves and flowers appear almost simultaneously. The delicate flowers have five, pure white, sometimes pink, petals and are densely formed giving the most wonderful, lush effect. It came as no surprise to me that the hawthorn is a member of the rose family. In the autumn the deep red berries will provide food for birds such as thrushes and waxwings. The wood from the hawthorn is finely grained, very hard and makes good firewood.
Perhaps, like me, you grew up with the old Scots saying, “Ne’er cast a cloot til Mey be oot”. In this case ‘mey’ refers to the other name for the hawthorn, the May Tree, and not the month of May which was, incidentally, called after the Greek goddess, Maia. The hawthorn has mystical associations: it is considered a tree of enchantment and its bad luck to cut one down and you mustn’t bring the blossom into the house. The tree is connected with love and romance and the idea that the dark days of winter have finally gone. Well, let’s hope…
Trees have always been important to me and following the Celtic calendar – oh, and by the way, there are 20 months compared to the usual 12 – has made me take a real interest in the tree of the month. I guess at this time, perhaps more than any other, I’m so enjoying our glorious trees and the natural world, in general, around Tayport. If you are interested to find out more about the hawthorn or any of the other trees in the Celtic Tree calendar, I would recommend the Woodland Trust website. You might also be interested in an organisation I am a member of: Trees for Life.