A thorn in Fineshade

Regular visitor to Fineshade, George Batchelor, writes in a timely way about May Blossom

George in Fineshade

I have been visiting Fineshade for nearly twenty years and it always gives me immense pleasure when something new is found in its woodland glades.

My main occupation in North East Suffolk is looking after two reserves for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust as a Volunteer Warden, so to wander and enjoy this quiet woodland as an amateur botanist is like opening a Christmas stocking, you never know what is coming next.

Common Hawthorn blossom

In East Anglia we have the Common Hawthorn in abundance and the very occasional Midland Hawthorn, but they are like hens teeth and I have never found one. So you can imagine my excitement to find them scattered all over the back tracks of Fineshade.

The comparison between Common and Midland is like comparing a worn tapestry to one in mint condition. The leaves of Common (above) are deeply cut and lobed, whereas the leaves of Midland (below) have only small divides if any, giving it a tidy appearance.

Midland Hawthorn blossom

The flowers of both species look the same but have a subtle difference and this is where a hand lens is a must.

The Common Hawthorn (below left) is single-seeded and therefore it has only one style in each flower. But Midland Hawthorn (below right) is two- or three-seeded having two or three styles in each flower.

Comparison of Common and Midland blossom

Both of these shrubs give off a heavy and heady perfume and as they bloom in the month of May, they have taken the name of this month. Until I took an interest in botany I thought that 'May' and 'Hawthorn' were separate species.

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.	 Attribution: Sarah Smith

In the Autumn the seeds present themselves as 'Haws', and if opened by scraping away the hard red outer covering, the one or more seeds can be seen, showing if it is Common or Midland.

These haws are a favourite food of winter thrushes, such as Fieldfares and Redwings, also Blackbirds and many others. Hawthorns are also home to over 150 insect species.

All this makes Hawthorn not only enjoyable but a very valuable part of our countryside ecology.

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