‘“Ne’er cast a clout ‘ere May is out”. Well, the flowering May or hawthorn is a bit backward this year and right now it seems sense to pay attention.
But there's more to our May trees than that. Some people love the 'scent' on a warm day - it seems to breathe summer - but that scent is actually trimethylamine, one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue. So now we know, thanks to Andrew Graham's piece in this month's Focus, and maybe that's why it's supposed to be bad luck to bring it into the house.
Other facts I didn't know are that the flowers are hermaphrodite, which may or may not have something to do with hawthorn being a pagan symbol of fertility, with association to May Day ceremonies and the Green Man.
The deep-red fruits are known as 'haws', the name coming from the tree rather than vice versa. 'Haw' is an Old English word for hedge, so the name means hedgethorn. Other names are whitethorn (because of the blossom) and quickthorn. This latter is nothing to do with its speed of growth but rather to its being alive – to distinguish a live quickthorn hedge from a dead hedge, i.e., one made up of stacked dead branches.
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
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