May is truly the month of the Hawthorn as it bursts into flower this month, producing masses of sweet smelling white blossoms. One of our commonest trees, the Hawthorn is found in hedges and woodlands throughout the countryside. It is especially good for a whole host of wildlife. Its flowers are excellent forage for bees and other pollinating insects while its berries are a staple food for many birds. Their dense thorny branches make good nesting habitat for birds, and small mammals such as hedgehogs and stoats shelter among the trunks and roots in hedges.
The Hawthorn holds a special place in Irish folklore and is traditionally associated with the fairies and is also often found near holy wells and around old ring forts.. Consequently, its is considered very unlucky to cut down a lone hawthorn and even to this day there is a lingering reluctance to interfere with a fairy tree. It was also considered unlucky to bring the May flowers into the house as death would follow. My grandmother used to say that was because they made the crown of thorns for Jesus’ head from hawthorns but apparently, the flowers are associated with the smell of death as they emit the same chemical, triethylamine as is given off by decomposing bodies.