Cockspur thorn (or cockspur hawthorn) is native from Quebec to North Carolina and Kansas. In Missouri, it is typically occurs in thickets and rocky pastures throughout the state. It may be seen as a dense, low-branched, broad-rounded tree to 25-35’ with horizontal branching armed with numerous large thorns (1.5-3” long). Lower branches often sweep near to the ground. It is also often seen as a tall, flat-topped shrub.
Obovate to oblong-obovate dark green leaves (to 3” long) have wedge-shaped bases. Foliage turns orange to scarlet to purple red in fall. White flowers (in corymbs to 3”) bloom in May for a period of 7-10 days. Flowers emit an unpleasant fragrance. Flowers are followed by rounded fruits (3/8” diameter) that ripen in September-October and typically persist to late fall. Fruits are technically edible, but are usually best left for the birds. The fruit is sometimes called a haw.
Crus-galli in Latin means leg of a cock in reference to the purported resemblance of the thorns of this plant to a cock’s spurs. The specific epithet of this plant is sometimes also designated as crusgalli. Thornless forms of this plant are available as more user-friendly alternatives. The white hawthorn blossom (Crataegus) is the Missouri State Flower.
Cockspur Hawthorn prefers full sun and medium moisture. This is a low maintenance tree with showy fragrant flowers and good fall leaf color. This tree attracts birds and butterflies with its showy edible fruit. Cockspur Hawthorne has good winter interest and tolerates drought, clay soil, and air pollution.