Parsley hawthorns are handsome, hardy large shrubs or small trees with attractive bark and lacy parsley-like foliage that turns orange and gold in autumn. The thorn-tipped branches are covered with white flowers (sporting red anthers) that attract pollinators in spring. The red fall fruits are eaten by mammals and birds. Parsley hawthorn is also the larval plant of the gray hairstreak butterfly.
In the wild it is found along rivers, in floodplains, and in wet woodlands. Companion plants include flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Sassafras albidum, wild blueberry (Vaccinium), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), and strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus).
Common Names: Parsley haw or parsley hawthorn
Botanical Name: Crataegus marshallii
Color: White flowers and red oblong fruit
Blooming Period: Blooms March to May, fruits in early fall
Type: Native deciduous large shrub or small tree
Mature Size: 15-20 feet
Exposure: Sun to part-shade
When to Plant: Best in fall
How to Plant: Space trees about 20 feet apart in part shade. Prefers rich, moist well-drained, acid soil, but will tolerate poor soil and seasonal flooding. Propagate by stratified seed.
In Your Landscape: A relative of the mayhaw, this small tree can be used in group plantings making it an excellent addition to the sustainable landscape.
Parsley hawthorn flowers have a musky sweet fragrance and are important to native pollinators. The oblong red fruit provides winter color and food for wildlife.
A version of this article appeared in Louisiana Gardening Volume 18 Number 2.
Photography courtesy of Yvonne L. Bordelon