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.
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…