Hawthorns


Some trees grow as straight as pillars, but not the crooked Hawthorn.

There are quite a few Thorn species in the Meadows & Links, mostly hawthorn.

One pretty set is the four Witches of Tollcross. These bend in a huddle between high old sycamores, not far from the two unicorn gateposts at the corner of Melville Drive and Lonsdale Terrace.

I hope the X just visible on the rear one above doesn't mean it's due for felling ...


One of the Witches has a tag denoting it as Common Hornbeam, but that's clearly a slip.


(Below is a unicorn gatepost, one of the two Mason's Pillars. It really is these beautiful shades of red sandstone and green lichen, but I've struggled to catch it in good photographing light because it's squashed among the surrounding trees. Fans of Edinburgh's whimsical Rockville, heartbreakingly demolished in 1966, may not be surprised to hear that Sir James Gowans designed the pillars. He does have a nifty gravestone in nearby Grange Cemetery. Unicorns, by the way, are Scotland's national animal.)


The graceful twists are a feature of hawthorns. There's another lovely one just a few yards further along North Meadow Walk which has its own nametag (Common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna). 




Hawthorns are easy to spot in autumn because of the lobed leaves and the distinctive red haws.


If the birds haven't eaten every last one, there may be the odd haw still hanging on in spring after the new leaf growth appears.



In May the blossom opens to reveal its pink anthers. Although beautiful, it smells unappealing close up, because hawthorn is pollinated by flies rather than bees - so it has a scent of carrion.




However, flies don't have to be unattractive: here's a hoverfly visiting one of the Tollcross hawthorns



For those who put the pollination process out of their thoughts, Haw jelly is a great source of Vitamin C. And of sugar.

Some bees do visit hawthorns nonetheless:




There are a couple of pink hawthorn trees on Leamington Walk, and just as the blossom was opening in early June 2016, they were a popular landing spot for a family of coal tit chicks. This little one even seems to have a contented smile on its face.


And this one just looks tiny 


The pink blossom is a surprisingly strong shade 


and will stay that way even when fully opened


It's appealing to bees too


Other Thorn species can also be found in the park, such as this lovely Crataegus x grignonensis, the Grignon Hawthorn, fruiting much later and able to keep its leaves and fruit right through winter till the new growth in spring.

This one sits between Leamington Walk and Warrender Park Terrace, and neighbour Tom tells me it has been there since the tenements were built - making it more than 120 years old.







In the pic below, you can see the bright new growth opening up in front of the speckled old leaves.


And then even the May blossom among a few of last year's berries


Thorn species are called that for a reason: most have sharp spines. A prickly hawthorn branch supposedly deters moles when jammed into one of their tunnels. Surely the mole could promptly dig another. But I only write here what I read in the excellent "Native British Trees" by Andy Thompson, so blame him if this doesn't work.

I've marked a few of the park's thorn trees on this map here.