Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hawthorn vs Hawthorn – Avoiding The Invasives

I took a few moments this morning to read the comments on past posts to the Almanack (thank you, all) and found a potentially distressing note on my deer-proofing post. I had mentioned that a good deer proof plant to include in your arsenal was hawthorn, and someone commented that we need to be careful about invasive hawthorns. Invasive hawthorns? I didn’t know there were such things, so I had to look it up.

Lo! and behold, the anonymous commenter was correct: there is an invasive hawthorn out there. It is Crataegus monogyna, the oneseed hawthorn, aka: English hawthorn. This plant has become quite the pest out in California, but it seems to have made inroads throughout the West as well as the East. According to the range map I saw, the middle of the US seems to be free of this invasive so far.

Oneseed hawthorn is a shrub or small tree, reaching heights of about 20 feet. Like all hawthorns, it sports long thorns, which protect it from the tender mouths of browsers like deer, but also provide protection for small birds who nest in its branches. It produces small crabapple-like fruits from white flowers. It certainly looks like a lovely plant to have in your yard. BUT – it soon becomes a weed, taking over and forcing out native vegetation.

After reading this, I became quite worried. Afterall, I just planted two hawthorns in my yard as part of the plant mix I used to replace the invasive honeysuckles I removed last fall (the logs of which, to my dismay, have sprouted – but that’s another story). And down at the Scenic Overlook in town hundreds of hawthorns are growing just where the grass ends. Could we be contributing to the spread of this noxious plant?

Since I’m not at home and therefore cannot read the tag on my hawthorn seedlings, I went online to the website of the nursery from which I purchased them. Desperately I followed links, trying to find the hawthorn listing. There it was, under Edible Landscape Plants: Crataegus mollis, downy hawthorn. You could probably hear the sigh of relief I exhaled from a mile away.

Still, I wasn’t about to sit back on my laurels – I needed to make sure that this wasn’t a different invasive (even though this nursery specializes in native plants). So, I did a search for C. mollis, and you’ll never guess what I found! Apparently in New York it is an endangered species! I found this hard to believe, but both the USDA and NYS list it as a protected plant. So, not only did I avoid an invasive, but I also managed to plant an endangered species and something that is important to native wildlife. >whew<>

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