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Washington HawthornCrataegus phaenopyrum

  • Washington Hawthorn - Crataegus phaenopyrum

The Washington hawthorn is a small, colorful tree that will brighten any landscape. Its pleasant display begins with reddish-purple leaves emerging in spring, then turning dark green as they are joined by a graceful display of white flowers. In autumn, the leaves turn orange, scarlet or purple. Red berries extend the colorful show into winter, often contrasting beautifully with the first winter snow.

Beyond its beauty, it also performs an important function in nature. A number of the songbirds rely on the tree’s late-season berries as a winter food source, making the Washington hawthorn a great choice for bird enthusiasts.

Hardiness Zones

The washington hawthorn can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 4–8. View Map

Tree Type

This tree is considered both a flowering tree and an ornamental tree. It is typically planted for both its visual interest and profusion of spring flowers.

Mature Size

The Washington hawthorn grows to a height of 25–30' and a spread of about 25' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13–24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The Washington hawthorn grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It is drought-tolerant.


This tree:
  • Produces showy, snow white flowers borne in clusters. The blooms appear in late May or early June and last for 7–10 days.
  • Features somewhat triangular leaves up to 3" long with 3–5 lobes and toothed margins. The leaves unfurl a reddish-purple color, changing to dark green in the summer and then orange, scarlet or purple in the fall.
  • Yields bright red berries about ¼" in diameter that persist into the winter. Because this fruit is so attractive to birds, there is little or no resulting litter.
  • Develops a dense crown.
  • Grows in a pyramidal or egg shape.
  • Develops thorns on its branches, making it an effective barrier.

Wildlife Value

The Washington Hawthorn produces abundant fruit which is eaten by birds and mammals throughout winter. It is an important nectar plant for bees.


First noted scientifically in 1883, the tree received its name from its point of origin when introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, becoming known as the Washington thorn because of its prominent thorns.

It is said that American legend Paul Bunyan used the Washington hawthorn’s branches as a back scratcher.