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Crataegus viridis 'Winter King' L.

Common name(s): Winter King Green hawthorn
Family: Rosaceae
Type: Woody plant
Size: 20-35' high, equal width
Texture: Medium
Hardiness: Zone 5a USDA
Range: Maryland . Illinois . Iowa . Texas . Florida

As the winter months approach for many of us, we often look for that last spot of color to brighten our days and yards. Something with interesting bark, persisting fruit, or beautiful branching and stem coloration.

We don't have to look any further. The aptly named Winter King hawthorn truly looks regal in its frosty home, bedecked with brilliant red fruit upon its silvery frame. Its summer months can be equally effective when clusters of white flowers form against the lustrous green leaves. And as if all of these features weren't enough, the tree goes one step further to prove its excellence by turning gold with traces of red and purple in autumn. When the leaves fall, the beautiful exfoliating bark is exposed. The beige-gray outer layer on larger branches and the trunk peel or flake off to expose a warm copper-cinnamon beneath. Younger branches tend to be more silvery-green (hence then name viridis, which means green), but provide an equally startling contrast.

Unlike most other hawthorns, it remains relatively free of pests and diseases such as scab and rust. This cultivar of Crataegus viridis is also noted for its enormous fruit, consistently growing larger than those of the regular species.

It does retain some of the better qualities of its genus, however it will tolerate most soil types and city pollution.

For winter interest, this is a plant that's hard to beat.


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Ranging from 3/4" to 2 1/4" long, the glossy green leaves have toothed edges and tend to be elliptical to oval in shape. The clean and disease-free foliage ranges from medium green to dark green.

Taxonomic description:

3/4" to 2 1/4" long, oblong-ovate to elliptic, acute or acuminate apex and cuneate base. Serrate margins, dark green and lustrous above with pale underside.


Opening in mid-May, the 2" clusters of white 3/4" blossoms show up nicely against the glossy green foliage. Like most members of the family Rosaceae, each individual flower has five petals, and like most hawthorns, they tend to be somewhat malodorous.
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Taxonomic description:

3/4", glabrous, slender pedicels, sepals lanceolate and entire. Stamens 20, pale yellow anthers, 2 to 5 styles, borne in 2" diameter corymbs.


Fruit 1/4 to 1/2" in diameter, the brilliant red fruit start forming in late September or early October. They cover the tree quite nicely, persisting through the winter months.

Taxonomic description:

Drupe, 1/4 to 1/2" wide, subglobose or short-ellipsoid, red with yellow mealy flesh, 2-5 nutlets.

Fall Color:

Although not one of the primary ornamental features of this hybrid, leaf coloration is still quite nice in the fall. Changing from its lustrous green to a golden yellow, the foliage picks up traces of red, purple, and maroon.


The outer bark of this hawthorn is beige-gray, but exfoliates off in sheets or patches to expose a warm cinnamon underbark. This characteristic will form on branches as they mature. Younger branches are silver-green in color, sparsely bearing 1" thorns. Bark


This hawthorn is not plagued with most of the problems common to other members of its genus. Despite its high resistance to rust on the foliage, the fruit may still become infected with the unsightly disease.

Leaf miners, caterpillars, borers, and aphids can also attack a tree, but if well-situated and stress-free there should be no noticeable effects.


It is unclear whether or not the seeds need to be scarified in acid for 2-3 hours if the endocarp seems excessively tough, this practice is recommended. Seeds should then undergo warm stratification (77°F) for 120 days, followed by 135 days at 41°F. However, this may not produce true-to-type stock, so budding onto seedling understock is the most common method of propagation.


This beautiful tree is the ideal plant for those wanting year-round interest in their garden. Its small size lends itself to even the smallest gardens, and its tolerance in adverse conditions is admirable. Soils can be of any type, although Winter King hawthorns are happiest in loam. City conditions don't seem to affect it either, but it does require full sun.

Suggested uses:

Fruit Short stature makes this a good selection for tight spaces. Use as a hedge, single specimen, screen, or mass planting are all excellent possibilities. It is usually best without a backdrop, but if one is necessary, light colors are superior or else the foliage becomes lost in the background. If only planted for winter interest, plantings in front of dark evergreens such as yews or hemlocks will stand out nicely.

Medicinal uses:

This species has no significant medicinal uses.


  • Dirr, Michael. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Champaign: Stipes Publishing, 1990.
  • Elias, T. S. The Complete Trees of North America, Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Gramercy, 1987.
  • Johnson, Warren T. and Howard H. Lyon. Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University, 1994.
  • Krussmann, Gerd. Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs, vol. I. Beaverton: Timber Press, 1976.
  • Peattie, D. C. A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
  • Poor, Janet Meakin and Nancy Peterson Brewster. Plants That Merit Attention, Vol. I: Trees. Portland: Timber Press, 1984.
  • Rehder, Alfred. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs. New York: MacMillan Publishing.
  • Sinclair, Wayne A. et al. Diseases of Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University, 1993.
  • Wyman, Donald. Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1986.

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