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Crataegus mollis

Common Name(s):
Downy hawthorn
Native Plants, Perennials, Trees

Crataegus mollis, commonly called Downy hawthorn is a handsome tree with tall trunk and compact, rounded crown of spreading branches, large broad hairy leaves, many large flowers, and large scarlet fruit. Downy hawthorn is a wide-spreading tree, 20-40 ft. in height, with horizontal branching and varying degrees of thorniness. The bark of the short trunk is silvery and scaly.  

One of the largest trees of its genus, Downy Hawthorn was originally called White Thorn. It was introduced into European gardens as early as 1683. The common and Latin species names both refer to the soft hairy foliage.

This tree is rounded to wide-spreading with a varying degrees of thorniness.  Its native habitat includes woodland borders, alluvial thickets, sandy hillsides, fields, and roadsides.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Spring            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer.  It is a host plant for the Gray Hairstreak, Red-spotted Purple, and Viceroy butterflies.  Hummingbirds and butterflies nectar from the blooms.  Songbirds, quail, wild turkeys and small mammals eat the fruit.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: This tree is subject to rust disease.

20-30 ft.
The Downy hawthorn has profuse, flat-topped clusters of 1 inch white, rose-like blossoms which are followed by persistent, tiny, red apples.
This is an extremely variable tree which will tolerate dry soils. It is very susceptible to a number of leaf diseases including rust blights. It should not be planted near red cedar, an alternate host of several rusts. This is one the of first hawthorns to bloom in spring. The long, sharp thorns are hazardous.
Rounded to wide spreading
Sun to partial shade; range of soil types
White flowers in spring; red fruit in early fall; does not last long
Growth Rate:
The Downy hawthorn has medium-green, fuzzy foliage which is usually aborted in early fall due to infections. Little harm is done since the species is not known for fall color. The leaves are 2-4 in. long, alternate, and simple with sharp serration which has a gray cast in summer. The leaves have a yellow to bronze to bronze-red fall color.
deciduous, red fruit, white flowers, perennial, tree, deer resistant

NCCES plant id: 472

Crataegus mollis Crataegus mollis in fruit
Photo by Nature And, CC BY - 2.0
Crataegus mollis Crataegus mollis in flower
Photo by Dan Mullen, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Crataegus mollis Crataegus mollis flower and leaf detail
Photo by Dan Mullen, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0