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Crataegus mollis (Downy hawthorn)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Crataegus mollis

Crataegus mollis Scheele

Downy Hawthorn, White Thorn, Whitethorn, Scarlet Hawthorn, Scarlet Haw, Red Haw, Downy Thorn

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Synonym(s): Crataegus albicans, Crataegus arkansana, Crataegus brachyphylla, Crataegus cibaria, Crataegus gravida, Crataegus induta, Crataegus invisa, Crataegus lacera, Crataegus limaria, Crataegus mollis var. dumetosa, Crataegus mollis var. gigantea, Crataegus mollis var. incisifolia, Crataegus mollis var. sera, Crataegus noelensis, Crataegus pedicellata var. albicans, Crataegus placens

USDA Symbol: crmo2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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 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. Profuse, flat-topped clusters of white, rose-like blossoms are followed by persistent, tiny, red "apples." Medium-green, fuzzy foliage is usually aborted in early fall due to infections. Little harm is done, since the species is not known for fall color.

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.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub , Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Pome
Size Notes: Up to about 40 feet tall.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NS , ON , QC
Native Distribution: W. NY to extreme e. ND, s. to AL, LA & OK
Native Habitat: Woodland borders; alluvial thickets; sandy hillsides; fields; roadsides

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Variable.
Conditions Comments: 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.


Use Wildlife: Habitat for many birds and other wildlife. Only a few birds like the fruit of Crataegus and, consequently, they remain effective for a long time.
Use Medicinal: Dried leaves or flowers have been administered in capsules, teas and tinctures for treating heart and circulatory problems. Studies have shown that hawthorn dilates blood vessels, thereby improving circulation, increasing oxygen supply to the heart and stabilizing blood pressure. (Kershaw)
Warning: Plant has thorns or prickles.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Propagate using treated seed planted in fall. May not germinate until the second year.
Seed Treatment: Warm stratify at 70-77 degrees for 120 days followed by 135 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Crataegus mollis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Crataegus mollis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Crataegus mollis


Record Modified: 2023-05-09
Research By: TWC Staff

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