Mayhaw – Cratagus spp.
Mayhaws are a group of species in the genus Crataegus, family Rosaceae. Primary species include C. aestivalis, C. opaca, and C. rufula. They are closely related to apple and pear, and have been used as exotic dwarfing rootstocks for both. The name “Mayhaw” is a conjugation of the month of ripening (May) and the common name for Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn).
A few selections have been made, like the relatively large-fruited ‘Texas Superberry’ or the even-ripening ‘Lodi’.
ORIGIN OF CRATAGUS SPP, HISTORY OF CULTIVATION
Mayhaws are native to the swamps and lowlands of the Gulf Coast states in the US. They have been collected from wild trees by deep-southerners since antebellum times, and are rarely cultivated in orchards still today.
The Meskawakis indians used unripe Crataegus tomentosa fruit for bladder ailments; these fruit also have hypotensive (lowers blood pressure) and antiarrhythmic activity (counters irregular heartbeat). Seeds of hawthorns are sometimes boiled or roasted, and made into a coffee-like beverage (Sorbus fruit also used for this). Crataegus oxycantha leaves are substituted for tobacco and smoked, causing a mild stimulant effect.
WORLD AND UNITED STATES MAYHAW PRODUCTION
For the most up to date statistical data on United States and World production numbers please refer to the following two websites:
World: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). FAOSTAT
United States: The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA Ag Stats). USDA Ag Stats
MAYHAW BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION
B. Flowers: Whitish-pink flowers are borne in profusion along 1-year wood and on short spurs. The floral structure is the same as apple.
C. Pollination: Unclear; since most trees are grown from seed. Pollinator = honey bees.
D. Fruit: a small, apple-like pome (1/2-1 inch); Bright red skin color, borne in “clusters” much like crabapples [actually, they’re borne on closely spaced spurs, giving this appearance]. Fruits ripen in May in Georgia.
MAYHAW GENERAL CULTURE
A. Soils and Climate:
Soil – well-drained, sandy soils with pH 6-7 are best, but hawthorns seem to tolerate flooding well in nature.
Climate – Chilling requirement – 250-500 hr
Cold hardiness – The trees tolerate -10 to -15°F when dormant, but bloom early (mid-febraury in Georgia) and would be frost-prone outside of the deep south.
B. Propagation: By seed, which are in many cases nucellar (apomictic).
C. Rootstocks: Usually not used, but any Mayhaw seedling could serve as a rootstock for grafting superior selections.
D. Orchard design, pruning, training: none
THE MAYHAW’S CONTRIBUTION TO DIET
Mayhaws are said to make the world’s greatest jelly. They are rarely eaten fresh; more often processed into jelly, butter, syrups, or wine. Mayhaws are fairly high in potassium and calcium, vitamin C and ß-carotene. Fruits sell for $5-$8 per gallon, and jelly retails for as much as $8.50/pint!