Growth Habit: Often cultivated as a hedge species, Hawthorn is an up-right, prickly shrub which can grow to 6 metres in height (usually 2-4m) with a dense crown. The bark is dull brown with vertical orange cracks. The younger stems bear sharp thorns, approximately 12.5 mm long. The leaves are 20 to 40 mm long, tear drop shaped (obovate) and deeply lobed, sometimes almost to the midrib, with the lobes spreading at a wide angle. The upper surface is dark green above and paler underneath.
Type of Plant: Deciduous tall shrub or small tree
Fruit/Seed: Red to deep red berries held in clusters, retained on the bushes after the leaves have fallen. Each berry contains a single oval brown seed.
Dispersal: Berries are eaten by stock, birds and mammals. The seed passes through the gut of the animal and may be passed out far from the parent bush. Seed can also contaminate soil on farm machinery and be moved from one area to another. Suckers form when roots are disturbed.
Distribution: Hawthorn was in the past, and sometimes still is, planted as a cheap form of fencing. For this reason, Hawthorn is found through out Tasmania.
Status: Hawthorn is a Declared Noxious Weed in Victoria and South Australia. Hawthorn is not a declared weed in Tasmania but is an environmental weed.
- Seedlings rarely get established in pastures that are regularly grazed. However, when land is fenced off along creek lines or for shelter belts, or if stock are removed for periods of time, seedlings can reach a stage where their height and prickly nature ensure that they are able to withstand grazing pressure.
- Hawthorn can form dense, impenetrable thickets, dominating the understorey and preventing access.
- Because it is capable of dominating native vegetation and produces large amounts of seed, Hawthorn does pose a threat to bushland, reserves and conservation areas in Tasmania.
- Planting new Hawthorn hedges or garden specimens, especially adjacent to bushland areas or stream reserves should be discouraged.
- There is a small cottage industry in collecting and drying Hawthorn flower, leaves and berries for distribution to the manufactures of medicinal herbal remedies.
- The well loved Tasmanian Hawthorn hedges are considered to be part of the cultural heritage that has made Tasmanian landscapes famous.
- While maintaining old hedges for heritage values, alternatives should be looked for when replacing damaged or dying Hawthorns.
Substitutions: If people are looking for alternatives to Hawthorn for hedges and wind breaks they can contact the following organisations for advice.
Habitat Plants, Liffey
Sustainable Timers Tasmania Nursery, Perth
The Understory Network
Australian Native Plants Society
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
For further information on Hawthorne, contact the Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment, Tasmania.
- Plant alternatives such as Prickly Box (Bursaria spinosa), Japanese Flowering Crab Apple (Malus floribunda) or Betchel’s Crab Apple (Malus ioensis ‘Plena’)
- Grubbing (all year). Carefully remove seedlings and small bushes using a mattock or spade.
- Herbicide (summer – autumn). Metsulfuron, triclopyr, triclopyr + picloram and glyphosate can be applied when the plant is actively growing, preferably after flowering. Basal bark and cut stump treatments are also effective.
N.B. Always check the herbicide label before use.