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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.


Blackthorn: sloe, sloe, prick, prick, sloe

Post date: Wednesday, 17 September, 2014 - 00:00

Sloes are, of course, the fruits of the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and people like to collect them to make sloe gin! One has to be careful though as the blackthorn has fearsome spines and for every sloe you pick you are likely to feel the sharp end of a thorn. The spinosa of its scientific name is a reflection of the spines on this plant.

The blackthorn is common across Dorset and is most obvious in spring when the white blossoms are in full flower. In autumn they are far less conspicuous as the dark fruits are much harder to spot in the hedgerow. They are not small fruits and are dark purple, almost black, when fully ripe.

The sloe is also known as the wild damson but sloes are rather sour and cannot really be eaten raw. In addition to sloe gin you can make sloe jelly, a kind of smooth jam. Home winemakers use them to make spurious port wine, some mix the juice with port to give it a more bitter taste (a waste of good port if you ask me!). If you want to make sloe gin there are several recipes on the Internet.  


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

Fact File Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Hedgerow Shrubs