The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Hawthorn gives off smell of death as it bursts into life

- By Joe Shute

There is only one tree in Britain that is named after the month in which it flowers. And the May tree, more commonly known as the hawthorn, is putting on quite a show this year.

There have been reports across the country of particular­ly splendid blooms. I have spotted them frothing over A-roads and country tracks, on woodland fringes and in farm hedgerows. Their unmistakab­le smell, often likened to that of death, hangs heavy in the air.

A chemical found in hawthorn blossom (trimethyla­mine) is also present in decaying meat, hence its slight corpse-like odour. For that reason, superstiti­ous people thought it was bad luck to take sprigs of it into houses as it would herald a death in the family.

Various theories abound as to why the shrub is having such a good year – and they all relate to the weather.

One is that because it grows on old wood, last year’s scorching summer temperatur­es, which caused tree branches to ripen and mature, laid the foundation­s for this year’s display.

It is also thought that 2023’s unusually cold and damp spring led to something of a blossom backlog as many species stored up their energy for slightly longer than usual before exploding into life. The National Trust, among others, predicted an imminent “truly incredible show” of blossom as we emerged from a very dull March and April.

It has been proved correct, as it is not merely the hawthorn that is thriving. Horse chestnuts, too, appear to be having a stellar year and have been catching the eye with their magnificen­t white and pink candelabra. Another May flower, cow parsley, also appears to be benefiting from the fine weather and is creating great drifts of blossom along roadsides.

On a rare bank holiday weekend of lovely weather, it falls to us to simply go outside and breathe it all in – though it may be worth avoiding areas populated by the pongy hawthorn.*

 ?? ?? Hawthorn blossom attracts a chiffchaff
Hawthorn blossom attracts a chiffchaff

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