The Parsley Hawthorn – Crataegus marshallii

Hawthorns are a diverse group of native small trees/large shrubs with bright, white flowers in spring and red berries in the fall.  They are a confusing group (Genus Crataegus) to classify, and accurate species  identification is often left to specialists.  According to The Sibley Guide to Trees, botanists of 100 years past listed 1,100 species of Hawthorns in North America.  In recent times, cooler heads have prevailed, and current thinking is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 species.

Fortunately there are a few species of Hawthorns that are relatively  easy to identify.  One of these is the Parsley Hawthorn (Crataegus marshallii), named for its deeply cut leaves that resemble the leaves of parsley.  The leaves are unique for a Hawthorn, and serve to separate it from its close relatives.

Crataegus marshallii           Leaves

Crataegus marshallii
Leaves

Crataegus marshallii Deeply Cut Leaves

Crataegus marshallii
Deeply Cut Leaves

Compare the leaves of the Parsley Hawthorn to several other Crataegus sp. Hawthorns found in the Falls Lake area and illustrated below.

Crataegus sp. Hawthorn

Crataegus sp. Hawthorn

A Crataegus sp. Hawthorn

A Crataegus sp. Hawthorn

The Parsley Hawthorn is a tree of the Southeastern United States, and is primarily a Piedmont species in North Carolina, avoiding the Mountains and the Coastal Plain.  It is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae) and has plenty of thorns on its trunk and twigs.

Crataegus marshallii        Trunk

Crataegus marshallii
Trunk

Crataegus marshallii       Twig Thorns

Crataegus marshallii
Twig Thorns

Buds are formed in late March to early April, and take several weeks to develop and bloom.   As the blooms open, the striking pink-raspberry anthems stand out against the white petals.

Crataegus marshallii Flower Buds

Crataegus marshallii
Flower Buds

Crataegus marshallii Flower Buds

Crataegus marshallii
Flower Buds

Crataegus marshallii Flower opening

Crataegus marshallii
Flower opening

Crataegus marshallii Buds Opening  Into Bloom

Crataegus marshallii
Buds Opening
Into Bloom

The five-petaled white flowers bloom in corymbs, and usually have 2 styles and 15 to 20 stamens.  As the anthers age, they change from the pink- raspberry color to black.  Below is a corymb of flowers blooming with the typical parsley-like leaves in the background.  The blooms are very small – less than an inch across.

Crataegus marshallii  Flowers in Corymbs

Crataegus marshallii
Flowers in Corymbs

In the close photo below, the 2 green styles can be seen at the center, surrounded by the stamens.

Crataegus marshallii      Close View of Bloom

Crataegus marshallii
Close View of Bloom

Below is the flower in profile with the two green styles visible among the stamens.

Crataegus marshallii Close Profile of Flower

Crataegus marshallii
Close Profile of Flower

The Parsley Hawthorn seen blooming below is about 15 feet tall and lies in the outer flood plain of the Neuse River, along the Neuse River Trail.  A red arrow points to the trunk of the tree.  The foliage has grown reaching for more sun, which gives the tree an off-balance appearance.    Most of the photographs above were taken from this tree.

Crataegus marshallii Parsley Hawthorn

Crataegus marshallii
Parsley Hawthorn

Herb Amyx

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Responses to The Parsley Hawthorn – Crataegus marshallii

  1. Helen Holt says:

    Such beautiful photos of a shrub flower I can’t say I’ve seen or, at least, noticed. Thanks, Herb, for another timely botany lesson. This spring, I have seen pinxter flower shrubs blooming, as well as some kind of virbunum that I saw today on MST in Durham County. Still, I’ve not seen these hawthorns that you describe so well!

  2. John Pelosi says:

    Herb, how very interesting. I have not seen the parsley hawthorn. where is it located? Thanks for your education and wonderful photography!

    • In the North Raleigh subdivision of Bedford, there is a paved green way trail that connects a paved parking area to the Neuse River Trail. This parking area is located at the end of Bedfordtown Dr, near the intersection of Bedfordtown Dr. with Grandview Heights Lane. The tree pictured in the last photograph is about 75 ft from the parking lot, on the left, very close to the trail. This area is only about 2 miles from the Falls Lake Dam.

  3. Hebe Splane says:

    Dear Herb, Our Garden Club of America club is nominating Crataegus marshallii for the Freeman Horticulture Medal. The nomination form requires 5 images with photography releases that grant the GCA the right to reproduce the photographs on their website and publications, limited to the publicity regarding the national medal and its presentation. Would you be willing to share any of your images for the nomination? I don’t any other way to contact you.

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