This shrub or small tree reaches 1–5 m in height, and has many stout thorns, 2–7 cm long, along its branches. Clusters of white flowers in May mature into red or orange berry-like pomes about 1 cm across—like very small apples. The fruits, called haws, and the spines on the branches are combined in the common name—hawthorn.
Kershaw describes the haws as edible but seedy, mealy and tasteless. First Nations people ate them fresh, dried or added to pemmican. The fruit contains compounds that affect blood pressure and heart rate. (64)
Royer and Dickinson report that “native peoples made probes, awls and fish hooks from the sharp spines....” (57).
Growth habit and range: This is a somewhat common, round headed, heavily branched shrub or small tree growing to 1–5 meters in height. It is found on coulees, open woods and river valleys in the prairie and aspen parkland of the southern portion of the province.
Description: The twigs of this plant have a unique zig-zag configuration. The branches bear slender, sharp thorns each measuring up to 7 cm in length. Older bark is grey and has a shredding texture. The leaves are dark green, somewhat shiny, simple and alternate on the stems. The under surface of the leaves tends to be somewhat hairy, particularly along the veins. The leaves are 2.5–5 cm in width and may be divided into 3–4 lobes. The leaf margin is double-toothed.
The flowers occur in May, June and July, and are held in clusters at the ends of the branches. Each flower is comprised of five 8 mm long petals of white, yellow or pink colour, 5 green sepals, and 5–25 yellow stamens. The fruit is a red to orange, berry-like pome called a ‘haw’, which measures about 1 cm in diameter. Many large seeds are contained in this apple-like fruit.
Kershaw, Linda. 2000. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies. Lone Pine Publishing, AB.