Herb: Western Mayhaw
Latin name: Crataegus opaca
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Medicinal use of Western Mayhaw:Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the fruits and flowers of many hawthorns are well-known in herbal folk medicine as a heart tonic and modern research has borne out this use. The fruits and flowers have a hypotensive effect as well as acting as a direct and mild heart tonic. They are especially indicated in the treatment of weak heart combined with high blood pressure. Prolonged use is necessary for it to be efficacious. It is normally used either as a tea or a tincture.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Deep depressions filled with water for most of the year, borders of swamps, low river banks etc.
Edible parts of Western Mayhaw:Fruit - raw or cooked. Juicy and acid with a pleasant flavour. It is up to 2cm in diameter. The fruit is frequently used and much prized in parts of southern N. America where it is often gathered in quantity from the wild. Its acid flavour makes it a favourite for preserves and jellies. The fruit can also be dried for later use. There are up to five fairly large seeds in the centre of the fruit, these often stick together and so the effect is of eating a cherry-like fruit with a single seed.
Other uses of the herb:Wood - heavy, hard and strong, but not large enough for commercial use. Useful for making tool handles, mallets and other small items.
Propagation of Western Mayhaw:Seed - this is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, some of the seed will germinate in the spring, though most will probably take another year. Stored seed can be very slow and erratic to germinate, it should be warm stratified for 3 months at 15°C and then cold stratified for another 3 months at 4°C. It may still take another 18 months to germinate. Scarifying the seed before stratifying it might reduce this time. Fermenting the seed for a few days in its own pulp may also speed up the germination process. Another possibility is to harvest the seed "green" (as soon as the embryo has fully developed but before the seedcoat hardens) and sow it immediately in a cold frame. If timed well, it can germinate in the spring. If you are only growing small quantities of plants, it is best to pot up the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in individual pots for their first year, planting them out in late spring into nursery beds or their final positions. When growing larger quantities, it might be best to sow them directly outdoors in a seedbed, but with protection from mice and other seed-eating creatures. Grow them on in the seedbed until large enough to plant out, but undercut the roots if they are to be left undisturbed for more than two years.
Cultivation of the herb:Deep depressions filled with water for most of the year, borders of swamps, low river banks etc.
Known hazards of Crataegus opaca:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.