Tree of the Month: 'Winter King' Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis)

Posted: May 10, 2012

Everyone loves flowers, but most trees only bloom for a few weeks out of the year. Those that have attractive summer foliage, fall color and interesting bark offer more than one season of beauty and really earn their keep in the garden.
'Winter King' Hawthorn

'Winter King' Hawthorn

Winter King Hawthorn - a Four Season Tree

‘Winter King’ hawthorn is a true four-season tree, with flowers in spring, clean summer foliage, showy fruits in fall and winter, and exfoliating bark that adds winter interest. Even though it is a hawthorn, ‘Winter King’ has relatively few thorns and is relatively resistant to common diseases such as rust that plague other hawthorns. It has an attractive upright vase-shaped growth habit in youth that matures to a pleasing horizontally spreading shape.

The show begins with white flowers early to mid-May. True, they are somewhat malodorous as is the case with other hawthorns, but the flowers are finished in about two weeks and not everyone finds the fragrance that offensive. Summer foliage is dark green to gray-green with a leathery texture, and fall color ranges from yellow-green to golden yellow. The ⅜-inch diameter fruits start out green, then ripen from orange in early fall to bright orange-red in late fall and early winter. They often remain attractive until late winter, and are a late winter food source for songbirds and small mammals. Older branches are silvery-gray and are extremely attractive in the winter sun. The brown-gray bark on the trunks of mature trees exfoliates in thin flakes to reveal the light orange interior bark.

‘Winter King’ hawthorn grows best in full to partial sun and moist, yet well-drained soil. However, this is an extremely adaptable tree and it is tolerant of poor soil, compacted soil, heat and drought, and is not fussy about soil pH, as long as the soil drains well. It grows 20-35 feet tall with a similar spread. ‘Winter King’ can be used as a specimen, focal point, as a mass planting and in borders.