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A very common shrub in Dorset hedgerows and open scrub areas

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Blackthorn: sloe, sloe, prick, prick, sloe

One of the many delights of living here in Purbeck is seeing the many blackthorn trees and bushes come in to flower. They start to blossom around the time of the spring equinox in most years almost regardless of the weather and continue for three weeks or so. For this period of time the hedgerows look as though they have had a heavy dusting of flour!

Blackthorn is unique in that the flowers come before the leaves whereas the other hedgerow shrubs are all the other way round. Blackthorn is also invariably the first to flower as well.

Close up the flowers are really lovely with pure white petals. The two small dark dots that appear to be on each petal are, in fact, the tip of the stamens (the anthers) from which the pollen is released. The blackthorn is a member of the rose family and is a vital nectar source for early insects which pollinate these flowers to give us sloes in the autumn.

Often the arrival of the blackthorn flowers is accompanied by cold snap in the weather which brings to mind the country saying of it being a blackthorn winter.

In the autumn, of course, the blackthorn bears fruit; the purple sloes that people like to collect to add to gin! 


Common Name Blackthorn
Scientific Name Prunus spinosa
Species Group Hedgerow Shrubs
Status very common
Interest Level
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
Look for

The dusty white flowers in spring and the purple sloes in autumn

Identification Notes
  • White flowers in spring appearing before the leaves
  • Clusters of purple fruits (sloes) in autumn
  • Black twigs with sharp spines in winter
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Hedgerow Shrubs