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Gerard's Herbal Vol. 5

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 24. Of the Whitethorn, or Hawthorn Tree.

CHAP. 24. Of the Whitethorn, or Hawthorn Tree.

The Kinds.

There be two sorts of the Whitethorn Trees described of the later writers, one very common in a most parts of England: there is another very rare, and not found in Europe, except in some few rare gardens of Germany; which differeth not from our common Hawthorn, saving that the fruit here of is as yellow as Saffron: we have in the west of England one growing at a place called Glastonbury, which bringeth forth his flowers about Christmas, by the report of divers of good credit, who have seen the same; but myself have not seen it; and therefore leave it to be better examined.



Fig. 1885. Hawthorn (1)

Fig. 1886. Cumberland Hawthorn (2)


The Description.

1. The Whitethorn is a great shrub growing oftentimes to the height of the Pear tree; the trunk or body is great: the boughs and branches hard and woody, set full of long sharp thorns: the leaves be broad, cut with deep gashes into divers sections, smooth, and of a glistering green colour: the flowers grow upon spoky roundels, of a pleasant sweet smell, sometimes white, and often dashed over with a light wash of purple; which hath moved from to think some difference in the plants: after which come the fruit, being round berries, green at the first, and red when they be ripe; wherein is found a soft sweet pulp, and certain whitish seed: the root groweth deep in the ground, of a hard woody substance.

2. The second and third have been touched in the first title, notwithstanding I have thought it not unfit to insert in this place a plant participating with the Hawthorn in flowers and fruit, and with the Service Tree in leaves, and not unlike in fruit also.

Theophrastus hath set forth this tree under the name of Aria, which groweth unto the form of a small tree, delighting to grow in our shadowy woods of Cumberland and Westmorland, and many other places of the North country, where it is to be found in great quantity: but seldom in Spain, Italy, or any hot region. This tree is garnished with many large branches beset with leaves like the Pear tree, or rather like the Alder leaf, of a dark green colour above, and of a white colour underneath: among these leaves come forth tufts of white flowers, very like unto the Hawthorn flowers, but bigger: after which succeed small red berries, like the berries of the Hawthorn, and in taste like the Neapolitan Medlar: the temperature and faculties whereof are not yet known.

The Place.

The Hawthorn groweth in woods and in hedges near unto highways almost everywhere. The second is a stranger in England. The last groweth at Glastonbury Abbey, as it is credibly reported unto me. The Aria groweth upon Hampstead Heath, and in many places of the West of England.

The Time.

The first and second flower in May; whereupon many do call the tree itself the May bush, as a chief token of the coming in of May: the leaves come forth a little sooner: the fruit is ripe in the beginning of September, and is a food for birds in winter.

The Names.

Dioscorides describeth this shrub, and nameth it Oxyakantha, in the feminine gender: and Galen in his book Of The Faculties Of Simple Medicines, Oxyakanthos, in the masculine gender: Oxyacanthus, saith he, is a tree, and is like to the wild Pear tree in form, and the virtues not unlike, &c. Of Oxyacantha, Dioscorides writeth thus: It is a tree like to the wild Pear tree, very full of thorns, &c. Serape calleth it Amyrberis and some, saith Dioscorides, would have it called Pyrina, but the name Pyrina seemeth to belong to the yellow Hawthorn: it is called in High Dutch, Haogdoren; in Low Dutch, Hagedoren: in Italian, Bagaia: in Spanish, Pirlitero: in French, Aub-espine: in English, Whitethorn, Hawthorn tree; and of some Londoners, May bush. Thus our author, but this is not the Oxyacantha of the Greeks, but that which is called Pyracantha, as shall be showed hereafter.

The second is thought to be the Aria of Theophrastus, and so Lobel and Tabernamontanus call it. Some, as Bellonius, Gesner, and Clusius, refer it to the Sorbus, and that not unfitly: in some places of this kingdom they call it a White Bean tree.

The Temperature.

The fruit of the Hawthorn tree is very astringent.

The Virtues.

A. The haws or berries of the Hawthorn tree, as Dioscorides writeth, do both stay the lask, the menses, and all other fluxes of blood: some authors write, that the stones beaten to powder, and given to drink are good against the stone.

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