Benefits of the blackthorn

  Continuing our look at the native trees that grow in the Heart of England Forest, this month sees the spotlight fall on the blackthorn. If there’s one tree that’s a mass of contradictions, it’s the blackthorn: on one hand, it’s known as the “Mother of the Woods,” and on the other, “the Dark Crone of the Woods”…! Blackthorn has perhaps the most sinister reputation in Celtic tree lore, being variously associated with bad luck and witchcraft. But there’s a lot to be said for its benefits… Two sides to the story It is perhaps understandable that the blackthorn has such a mixed reputation, as its face changes markedly throughout the year. As spring approaches, the blackthorn’s branches are briefly swathed in a dense covering of the most vibrant white blossom, giving it a joyous and benevolent facade. The winter sees its leaves turn yellow and fall off, leaving a stark and twisted black skeleton exposed.  Perhaps this spiny, dark form with its menacing veneer led Celtic tribes of old to attach mystical mythology to this modest tree – not least because witches’ wands were made of blackthorn wood! To this day, the ominous qualities of the blackthorn are maintained through the enduring fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, as it is through a thick hedge of blackthorn that the prince must battle to save his slumbering princess.  Farmers still know the value of a blackthorn hedgerow, its spiny interlocking twigs and branches providing a handy natural barrier to keep livestock secure. An invaluable resource Often mistaken for hawthorn, there’s an easy way to distinguish the two in springtime: blackthorn...
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