About Us
Our Sites
News & Events
Education & Learning
Willow Resources
A to Z Index
Training Programme
Species Information
Other Links
Contact Us
Sign Guestbook

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

A deciduous, thorny shrub
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



Also known 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.