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Native Tree



Prunus spinosa



Found on roadsides and hedgerows, blackthorn forms dense scrub cover where it is left untrimmed and ungrazed.

It bears dense clusters of small white flowers, which contrast with the dark bark of its twigs, very early in the year.

Blackthorn hedges can appear to be covered in white. After it flowers, the small oval leaves appear, and then, in autumn, the harvest of sloes develops. These look like small damsons but are very sour and are not eaten directly by people, although birds take them.

Sloes have traditionally been used for flavouring gin or poteen. The use of blackthorn wood is mainly decorative, for example the manufacture of shillelagh walking sticks and tourist souvenirs.


It is easier to collect sloes in late September/October when the leaves have fallen, and the fruits are more visible. Use gloves if collecting by hand. It is possible to collect from the ground after shaking the tree once the fruits are blue/black. Only collect from your local area in old hedgerows.


Remove flesh/partially rot if necessary. Store stones in moist sand, outdoors, protected from mice.


Sow in nursery rows in late winter/early spring and allow seedlings to grow undisturbed until the autumn. Chaffinches are notoriously fond of the tasty cotyledons! Plant out at one year old 25 - 30 cm spacing apart and they will be ready for permanent sites in one more year. Blackthorn is easy to grow on any well drained soil and prefers a sunny position. It is best planted out young as many fail at the transplanting stage.

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