spinosa, better known as Blackthorn, is a deciduous,
thorny shrub. While commonly found in hedges
and woods, this species, according to the Woodland
Trust, is definitely one for the garden.
Picture courtesy of WTPL/Peter Paice from Belfast.
Blackthorn generally won’t grow more than
six metres tall, making it suitable for most
gardens, including those where space is precious.
Like hawthorn, it is often used to form a dense,
protective hedge; providing wonderful nesting
for garden birds and acting as a deterrent for
any unwelcome visitors (whether pets, livestock
or the human variety!).
March and April bring cascades of tiny white
flowers. The white clusters,
which contrast with the dark bark, are dense
and temporarily seem to paint whole hedges white.
The flowers make their appearance before the
oval-shaped leaves (one way to help distinguish
blackthorn from hawthorn!).
Picture (right) courtesy of www.moorhen.demon.co.uk
In autumn the fruits or sloes develop, usually
ripening in October. The sloes are a dark blue-black
colour and resemble tiny plums. While pretty
in appearance, the sloes apparently taste sour
and, as such, aren’t likely to be eaten
directly by humans (but are, of course, often
used for wine making or gin flavouring). Thankfully,
birds don’t seem to have a problem with
the sour taste and will happily make a meal
of the sloes.
your young blackthorn between November and March,
and in a well-drained site. This shrub prefers
a sunny position and won’t tolerate total
(left) courtesy of WTPL.
Blackthorn is a wonderful addition to any wildlife
garden. Whether as an individual shrub, or part
of a hedge, you’ll be rewarded with dazzling
displays of spring flowers and pretty autumn
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