Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Can be confused with the cherry-plum but only the blackthorn has thorns
The oval blue-black fruits (sloes) have a powdery surface bloom and an extremely bitter taste
Can form small trees up to 10m tall
Cascades of white flowers which emerge before the leaves and help to distinguish it from hawthorn.
Small alternate leaves.
Buds: Tiny buds, often in clusters
USES & FOLKLORE
as blackhaw or bullister, its long spikes provide birds with a protective hiding
place and the more
careless amongst us with the odd cut as we pick the fruits called sloes. These vary in colour from slate blue to
purple and almost black and have a waxy appearance.
They have an extremely bitter taste, though with the right preparation, can provide us with delights
for the festive season. The most popular use is in flavouring gin and vodka and in the making of sloe gin,
while herbalists used sloes in the treatment of blood disorders and stomach complaints. The blackthorn has
long since been regarded as a symbol of bravery, probably due to the fact that it is resplendent in its stunning
display of creamy white flowers, well before other trees have come into leaf. Blackthorn branches were used
as walking sticks due to these magical qualities.