Blackthorns Abound

Blackthorn Tree

I stumbled into a hedge of Blackthorn trees about a month ago. I’d walked that street many times before for years and had assumed the trees were a species of decorative Japanese plum. One day I stopped in for a closer look and a quick hello. That was when I realized the trees were Blackthorns and quite old ones at that – maybe 100 years old. Yesterday, a block away, I found an even older row of Blackthorn trees, almost double the size and age of the previous ones I had discovered. Until seeing those trees I’d believed Blackthorns were small shrubs, not the giants I encountered. They were no great Oak or Big Leaf Maple, but some of their trunks were too big for me to wrap my arms around. Covered in thorns with suckers shooting up from every trunk, the Blackthorns lined the length of a building and its parking lot. Their thick trunks the only remaining testament to the farmland they bordered once before now long gone replaced by malls and parking lots.

Thorned branch of Blackthorn

One doesn’t expect to find Blackthorns in Canada, but the first immigrants here were mainly from England and Scotland and a common practice of farmers at the time was to use Hawthorn and Blackthorn trees as hedges instead of building fences. I picture men with sun-browned skin hiding the pits of these trees’ fruits in their luggage in order to continue their traditional ways of husbandry in the New World. Thanks to them, and the lack of agricultural import laws at the time, as a practitioner of Scottish folk magic I now have access to a traditional tree used in magic. I have found other groves of both Blackthorn and Hawthorn in Surrey and Langley (some still in their original condition as hedges) and I estimate there are such groves all over British Columbia and also probably Washington and Oregon. A little research into old farmland and cultural settlements in your area might just lead you to your own old grove of Blackthorns.

There is fallen wood and cut suckers left all around the trees. I shall go back with my good saw, garden shears, and a suitable offering…


10 Responses to “Blackthorns Abound”

  1. Scylla says:

    Quick question: Would you ever sell “untouched” sections of wood? I.e. “bark and moss still clingin’”

    • I’ve done it before, but my practice is to do it after the wood’s been properly cured for 6 months to a year to ensure any insects or bacteria are dead before shipping. It would still be shipped at your own peril, however, as it is illegal to ship wood across the border with bark & etc still attached. If it got destroyed by customs I wouldn’t be able to refund you. If you’re okay with those stipulations I’d be willing. It’s rare on these trees to find a wand or staff sized piece covered in thorns – it’s mostly the smaller suckers that have them (if you were hoping for a thorn-covered piece).

  2. Juniper says:

    The arboretum park in Ottawa is a testament to trees. There are a few lovely thorn hedges and patches there from settlement and Victorian times.

  3. steve says:

    They could have got to Canada in bottles of sloe gin as it’s made with the sloes intact .I will check out if the seeds are still viable after I decant this years brew

  4. sara says:

    I am soooo jealous! BUT, this means I can indeed grow these on the left coast, maybe in my little hamlet in northern California even.

    (*dashing off to find seed packet from Chiltern Seeds*)

  5. Steve says:

    I will send you some seeds from the UK if you like

  6. Jae says:

    There are groves of Blackthorn and Hawthornes tucked away all over the place in Kentucky. Recently, we found a particularly wicked grove that had to have been planted about fifty to seventy years ago, at the bottom of a very hidden hollow, wedged in between three creeks.

    My great-grandfather always said that boot-leggers and stillers used these groves, Blackthorn particularly for many things. It’s very amazing to see the blossoms come out. And very hard work to climb down there!

    I did some asking around and found out that this whole ridge and hollow is/was called “Moonshine way” by the old locals! For some reason, this whole hollow and grove (which is huge, we have taken lots of pictures of the wicked thorns and trees) has a very strong presence.

    Asking around amongst my family, a cousin reminded me that the sheep farmers would use Blackthorn groves to protect the sheep in Feburary from foxes! And then I recalled the grove on my grandparent’s farm, way way off the beaten path…he took me out there once in a snowstorm. I was told the wood from them is very powerful. but no one told me how!

    it is terribly sad to me, to watch all this land being covered up by urban sprwal and ugly houses and pavements. Recently, an uncle sold a whole stand of walnut trees to a furniture maker, a grove that had been orginally planted in the colonial days and maintained by my family. The whole grove of English walnut trees and Black walnut trees.

  7. strixchick says:

    One does not simply walk into…Blackthorn?