The meeting of the fairies - the hawthorn tree

  • 11 March 2005
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There's a good tea made from hawthorn and lime flowers, and the distinctive wine-red berrries, or haws, can be made into jelly or jam, as well as being an important source of food for birds in autumn and winter.

Hawthorns are native to temperate regions and are widespread in Ireland as hedge, in woodlands and even on mountain tops. Its sharp thorned branches create a barrier to farm animals, keeping them in and to humans, keeping them out. They can grow to around 30 feet.

Many myths and legends surround the hawthorn, so that solitary hawthorns can be seen all over Ireland standing out in tree-free areas, spared from felling because of the belief that it is the meeting place of the fairies who may live in its vicinity. It's usually given a wide berth when ploughing is going on, and many's the building project that has had to be abandoned or adapted to accommodate a lonely hawthorn, for fear of fairies.

So apart from being a beautiful flowering tree suitable for patios, gardens, lining streets and creating hedges, its nutritious properties could keep the wolf from the door if belts needed tightening. Surprising, really, we weren't all advised to grow them by politicians in the 1970s.