This short post is part of a series focusing on autumn colours.
Featured in the photo accompanying this post are the fruits of common hawthorn. Crimson in colour, these fruits, known as haws, are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by redwings, fieldfares, and thrushes, as well as some small mammals. They can be seen throughout the autumn and into winter.
The photo shows two of the features that are useful in separating common hawthorn from our other native species in this genus, Midland hawthorn (a species of ancient woodland). The latter has less deeply lobed leaves, and its fruits have two seeds and thus two ‘styles’, which are the dark, thin stalks that can be seen emerging from the top of the fruits (they are leftovers from the flower from which the fruit developed). As you can see in the photo, there is only one style coming out of each fruit.
The hawfinch – sadly, an uncommon bird in Hertfordshire these days – takes its name from its ability to crack open the hard seeds inside these fruits, with its exceptionally powerfuly bill. These birds are also able to split open cherry stones, and the similarly hard seeds of hornbeam and yew.
While haws can be foraged to make a tangy ketchup, we like to leave them in the Park for the birds and small mammals.