Missouri, right there beside the Mississippi River, has as its state flower the hawthorn. This prickly, practical shrub grows naturally wild in the state, and its colorful fruit, the haws, provide birds with much-needed food towards winter. So why did Missouri choose the hawthorn as its state flower, and what else can the plant do? Read on for the latest in our state flower series.
Hawthorns are all in the crataegus family—which are related, in a way, to roses. That’s why the haws will look familiar to rose-growers; they’re like rose hips. Some sources say the dotted hawthorn, or white hawthorn, is the particular species chosen by Missourians; it has delicate white flowers with red or white anthers.
However, the state legislature has apparently never adopted an official state flower, and there’s some confusion; the downy hawthorn or red hawthorn may be the plant, too, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Either way, hawthorns are pretty, and they can taste nice. Hawthorn jams and jellies, punches, traditional Chinese and Mexican sweets, and even alcoholic drinks are all possible, depending on the variety. The shrubs can grow from 16 to 50 feet tall, and when they flower, they look as if they’re covered in snow.
The Japanese and Chinese use hawthorn in traditional medicine, and scientists have looked at the plant with a view to finding if it has a use in conventional medicines, too. The wood can be used in tool handles and other items that you don’t want to rot. It can also be used as rootstock for grafting.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look at the hawthorn, the state flower of Missouri!