PLANT OF THE WEEK #60: Crataegus x lavalleei

Nearly everything that’s happening in gardens in June in my climate is residue from another month.  There’s flowers hanging on here and there, and some good foliage yet to be hammered to smithereens by alternating cracker frosts and high winds.

This also applies to the charms of Crataegus x lavalleei (French hawthorn), that don’t really ‘belong’ to June.  But the richly-coloured autumn foliage has gone by now, leaving the large, heavy orange-red fruit (haws) hanging like lanterns on bare stems.  Now is when it’ll stop you in your tracks, and have you pulling over on the side of the road to take pics.

Crataegus x lavalleei is a hybrid of unknown parentage, though the ‘mother’ plant was the greeny-gold fruited C. mexicana.  It’s always hard to be sure about parentage with spontaneous, rather than controlled, hybrids.  You’re usually only guessing the pollen provider, with no more certainty than we have of the father of our current, very sweet, Border Collie cross that looks exactly like a kelpie.  At least, in both cases, we can be sure of the mother.  That isn’t always true with plants, as seed may germinate spontaneously at some distance from either parent.  So until there’s sufficient financial imperative for DNA testing (possibly never), it’s usually just a matter of the best guess, according to recognisable characteristics.

Crataegus x lavelleei carries the large, glossy dark green leaves of the Mexican hawthorn parent,  with (it would appear) the red fruit of the other parent.  It’s a winner combination, on a small, tough-constituted tree (about 4m x 4m) that has the added benefit of being pretty-much thornless.

One tree has quite an impact.  But five of them is at least twenty times better.

One frustration:  I’ve found it impossible to take pictures of the fruit that accurately portray its visual impact.  As you’re slamming on your brakes, muttering ‘What the..???’, the fruit appears enormous, and looks like it’s literally weighing down the branches.  But when you get out to take a pic, or measure the fruit, you find it’s much more modest than you first thought.  So don’t take any notice of official dimensions, or even pics.  Just believe me that it’s vastly more impacting than either of those forms of recording or measurement suggest.

Also note that C. x lavalleei also goes under the name C x lavallei, C x carrierei, and C x lavalleei ‘Carrierei’. All the options might also leave out the indication of hybrid origin ie the ‘x’ in the naming.

With huge thanks to Stephen Ryan, who cleared up some serious ID questions for me regarding the many hawthorns around here.  Check out Stephen’s recently launched YouTube channel here for video-based plant profiles

Discussion

  1. I LOVE this tree! I have the tree in my garden. I have tried in vain to determine it’s name and I thank you for allowing me to give my tree it’s ‘True name’! I purchased the tree approx 15-18yrs ago from where I can no longer remember. There is a beautiful yellow specimen at Ballan Victoria in Village square. Also an eye catcher. Along with my medlar this tree is a true delight for me in all seasons. 🙂

  2. I could definitely use this, but it would be pointless if the parrots like it too. King, rosellas, lori’s, sulphur frikken crest….budgie central in these parts.

    1. They seem to leave it alone here, while all the fruit on my crabapples is eaten before it even looks like colouring up. I’ve driven by those photographed in the last few days, and all the fruit has now fallen off. But it lasted ages

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