Crataegus succulenta (Fleshy Hawthorn)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; average moisture; woodland and forest edges, thickets, fields
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 22 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers with pink anthers] Flat-topped, branching cluster of 10 to 30 flowers at tips of branch twigs, emerging after the leaves in mid to late spring. Flowers are ½ to 2/3 inch across with 5 round white petals. In the center are 15 to 20 stamens; stamen tips (anthers) can be either pink or white and are rather small, .5 to .7 mm long.

[photo of sepals, hypanthium and flower stalks] The 5 sepals around the base of the flower are narrowly triangular, the edges usually with gland-tipped teeth or narrow gland-tipped lobes. The cup-shaped hypanthium below the sepals and flower stalks are both usually covered in soft hairs, though may become hairless.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[leaf scan] Leaves are alternate, 1½ to 3½ inches long, up to about 2¾ inches wide, broadly elliptic to somewhat diamond-shaped in outline, usually widest near or above the middle, pointed to somewhat rounded at the tip, mostly wedge-shaped at the base but may be somewhat rounded. Edges are toothed except near the base; the 2 to 5 shallow lobes per side are often obscure. The upper surface is sparsely covered in stiff, appressed hairs, the lower usually hairy along major veins. The leaf blade tapers at the base to a narrowly winged stalk up to about ¾ inch long that lacks glands and may be hairy only on the upper surface; the wing does not usually extend to the base of the stalk.

[photo of branch thorns] Young twigs are hairless, shiny reddish to brown, turning gray the 3rd year and developing slightly curved thorns 1½ to 4 inches long. Thorns are usually abundant and are shiny dark reddish-brown when young.

[photo of trunk] Mature bark is thin, gray to gray-brown and splits into narrow plates. Stems are single or a few from the base and may reach 6 inches in diameter on larger stems. Compound thorns are often present on lower stems; branches are spreading to ascending. Plants are not colony-forming or root suckering.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

Fruit is fleshy and berry-like, round, about 3/8 inch diameter, dull to somewhat shiny red at maturity, hairy or hairless.


Fleshy Hawthorn is uncommon in Minnesota, found primarily in deciduous woodland and forest edges in the southeast corner of the state and the western half of the Twin Cities Metro area. It reaches the western edge of its range in Minnesota, though the national distribution map shows it much more widespread in the state and extending as far west as Idaho. This is due to taxonomic differences, lumping Crataegus macracantha (Large-thorned Hawthorn) and C. succulenta together. We are following the treatment in Flora of North America, with guidance from Welby Smith's book “Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota”, which splits then into separate species.

Fleshy Hawthorn is recognized by the combination of: single or few-stemmed shrub or small tree, often (not always) with compound thorns on older trunks; spreading to ascending branches with abundant slightly curved thorns up to 4 inches long; leaves often obscurely lobed, more or less wedge-shaped at the base, toothed except near the base, usually hairy on major veins on the underside; short, winged leaf stalks that lack any glands, hairless on the back; flowers with 15 to 20 stamens and unusually small (less than 1mm long) pink or white anthers; sepals with gland-tipped serrations or narrow lobes, hypanthium and flower stalks hairy. Fruit is round, dull or somewhat shiny red at maturity. The thorns are the largest of the Minnesota Hawthorns, a trait it shares with the very similar Crataegus macracantha.

The primary difference between C. macracantha and C. succulenta are with the flowers, the former having 5 to 10 stamens and anthers at least 1 mm long, the latter having 15 to 20 stamens and anthers less than 1 mm long; both may be pink or white. When flowers are absent it can be very difficult to tell them apart, though the location within the state may be a good indicator. Per Welby Smith, the existing herbarium records that put C. succulenta outside of the limited range shown on our map are either misapplied names or incorrectly IDed. All of the Minnesota records were vetted by James Phipps, the Crataegus expert for Flora of North America, during Welby's research for his tree book, but the specimens could not be annotated at the time so as of this writing are still in the system incorrectly. That should be straightened out eventually.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hennepin and Otter Tail counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: anon
on: 2022-04-10 12:03:08

The 4" upper end for thorn length appears to be at odds with numbers here (Even the extended range of 8cm/3.14" is lower than the 4" quoted here.) Thanks for this amazing site; is a great resource!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-04-14 15:46:48

Welby Smith's book "Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota" notes the thorns are up to 9cm (3.54in) long; Michigan Flora 9.5cm (3.74in) but notes some specimens are nearly 10cm (4in), so 4 inches is not off by too much.

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