South Dakota Native Plant Research
Rosaceae: Crataegus chrysocarpa

Rosaceae: Crataegus chrysocarpa


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Family Name


Common Name

Fireberry hawthorn

Native American Name

Lakota: matȟó tȟaspáŋ, tȟaspáŋ hú


Crataegus chrysocarpa is a perennial multi-stemmed shrub, 2–4 m tall, with a rounded top, straight to curved thorns 3–6 cm long, the young stems are light brown and become gray with age. The alternate, simple leaves have blades that are ovate, 2–6 cm long, shallowly lobed, the lobes pointed. The margins are sharply toothed on the upper half, with glands on the tips of the larger teeth and with small teeth to smooth at the bottom. The blade surfaces have sparsely appressed hairs. The petioles are 1-4 cm long, with 6-9 mm long stipules that are rapidly deciduous. The inflorescence consists of small terminal clusters of 5- to 12 flowers at the ends of lateral branchlets. Each flower has a hairy, cup-shaped hypanthium with 5 sepals 2–4 mm long, and glandular margins. The 5 petals are round, white, 7–10 mm long and abruptly narrowed into a short claw. There are 10 stamens and an inferior ovary with 3 or 4 styles. The fruit is a red pome, 8–15 mm in diameter, sparsely pubescent when young and later becoming smooth. Fireberry hawthorn blooms in May and June on open wooded hillside and prairie ravines of the eastern and western borders of South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Fireberry hawthorn is a hardy and attractive shrub that can be planted to stabilize hillsides and to form a dramatic hedge. The foliage and leaves provide a pleasant rounded form, The substantial thorns make it useful as a fence. The white flowers and red berries provide color from spring into the winter attracting bumblebee pollinators and birds that feed on the fruit. The fruit are edible and can be tasty, if somewhat mealy.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Red ripe fruit can be collected in late summer and fall. Remove the seeds from the fleshy pulp.

Germination: the seeds have a hard dormancy and are best sown in the fall. Some seed will germinate in the spring and more will germinate the following year.

Light: Full sun to partial shade. Fruit production is enhanced by light.

Soils: Very adaptable, does best in well drained lighter soils with a high organic content.

Water: Mesic to medium wet. They will tolerate dry conditions when established but tend to have fewer leaves and fruit.

Rosaceae: Crataegus chrysocarpa