Downy hawthorns are native trees that were once planted in New York City parks to attract birds. One of the largest trees of its genus, the Downy hawthorn was originally called the white-thorn tree.
They have tall silver-gray trunks and a crown of spreading branches, and can reach 20-40 feet in height. In spring, they bloom with flat-topped clusters of white, rose-like blossoms that have an unpleasant fragrance. Individual flowers are about one inch across, and consist of five white petals, with pale yellow centers. Their flowers are replaced by small pomes (apple-like fruits) that mature during late summer. The pomes are light green at first and become scarlet by the fall, appearing just like tiny red apples. The inside of the fruit is pale yellow and has a sweet-tart flavor.
Hawthorns have a long history in both Europe and America, they were grown as sturdy hedgerows to divide properties in Europe, while also chosen as the name for the Pilgrim’s ship the Mayflower, which is a common nickname for the hawthorn.