Blackthorn

[[Category:Top30]]
[[Category:Deciduous Trees]]
[[Category:Rosaceae]]
[[Category:Prunus]]

[[File:Blackthorn-sloesC.jpg|right|200px]]

”’Scientific Name”’: ”Prunus spinosa”

”’Family”’: ”Rosaceae”

”’Also known as”’: Sloe

”’Habitat”’: Native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa.It is a lso locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America.

It grows best in moist, well drained soil and thrives in full sunlight.
It grows naturally in scrub, copses and woodlands, but is commonly used as a hedging plant.

”’Description”’: Blackthorn is a large deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5 metres (16 ft) tall, with blackish bark and dense, stiff, spiny branches. The fruit, called a “sloe”, is a drupe, ripening in autumn, and harvested—traditionally, at least in the UK, in October or November after the first frosts. Sloes are thin-fleshed, with a very strongly astringent flavour when fresh.

”’Identifying Features”’:
* ”’Bark”’ – Smooth and dark brown, almost black.
* ”’Twigs”’ – Fine, downy at first, purple-grey and stiff. Many side shoots terminate in spikes.
* ”’Buds”’ – Very small (1-2mm). Some on the actual spines.
* ”’Leaves”’ – Slightly wrinkled, oval, toothed, pointed at the tip and tapered at the base.
* ”’Flowers”’ – Blackthorn is a hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are found in one flower. White flowers with 5 petals, appear on short stalks before the leaves in March and April, either singularly or in pairs.
* ”’Fruits”’ – Once pollinated by insects, the flowers develop into blue-black fruits measuring 1cm across.

==Pictures throughout the year==

File:BlackthornBudspring.jpg|Blackthorn buds in spring
File:BlackthornFlowerSpring.jpg|Blackthorn flower in spring
File:BlackthornSpring3.jpg|Blackthorn branch in spring
File:Blackthorn-sloesC.jpg|Sloes in Autumn
File:Blackthorn_thorn.jpg|Blackthorn thorns
File:Blackthorn_leaves.jpg|Leaves
File:Blackthorn_leaves_thorns.jpg|Leaves and thorns

==Uses==
===Food===
In France the unripe fruit is pickled like an olive.
The leaves are used as a tea substitute.
The dried fruits can be added to herbal teas.
The flowers are edible and can be crystallised or sugared
The fruit can be made to make wine, or Sloe gin.
===Medicinal===
The flowers, bark, leaves and fruits are aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, laxative and stomachic. An infusion of the flowers is used in the treatment of diarrhoea (especially for children), bladder and kidney disorders, stomach weakness. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Prunus spinosa Sloe – Blackthorn for inflammation of mouth and pharynx.
===Other===
Early flowering, blackthorn provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring. Its foliage is a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the lackey, magpie, common emerald, small eggar, swallow-tailed and yellow-tailed. It is also used by the black and brown hairstreak butterflies.

Birds nest among the dense, thorny thickets, eat caterpillars and other insects from the leaves, and feast on the berries in autumn.

Blackthorn was long associated with witchcraft, and it is said that witches’ wands and staffs were made using blackthorn wood.

==Gav Notes==
===Known hazards===
Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. Avoid excessive intake and use recommended doses.
===Harvesting===
Usually ripe around October/November. Fruit are hand-picked from trees. A berry picker might work, but I’ve never tried one.
===Potential lookalikes===
Could be confused with [[Hawthorn,_Common|Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)]], without leaves. The flowers of blackthorn appear before the leaves and the spines have buds along their length, on the hawthorn flowers emerge from the same point as the buds and after the leaves.
Can be identified in winter by the black and spiny twigs with leaf buds along the spines.
===Other===
Nice raw when rolled between hands.
So far:
* Sloe gin
* Sloe wine
* Sloe and rosehip jus

”’Sources”’:
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft – http://identificationmasterclass.com/
*Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_spinosa
*Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/blackthorn/
*PFAF – https://www.pfaf.org/USER/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Prunus+spinosa

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