Mayhaw Fruit Trees: Learn How To Grow A Mayhaw Tree

Mayhaw Fruit Trees: Learn How To Grow A Mayhaw Tree

By: Teo Spengler

You may never have heard of a mayhaw, let alone considered growing mayhaws in your backyard. But this native tree is a species of hawthorn with edible fruit. If the idea of planting mayhaw fruit trees interests you, read on to learn more.

Crataegus Tree Information

What is a mayhaw? The scientific name for mayhaw fruit trees is Crataegus aestivalis, the same genus as the other some 800 species of hawthorn tree. The features that make the mayhaw special among hawthorns are the edible fruit they produce and their outstanding ornamental qualities. These are the primary reasons people start growing mayhaws.

Mayhaw fruit trees can present as shrubs or round-topped small trees no taller than 30 feet (10 m.). They have attractive green foliage, wildly showy blossoms in early spring and clusters of brilliantly colored fruits in late spring or early summer.

Before you start growing mayhaws, you need to know something about the fruit they produce. They are small pomes the size of cranberries. The pomes are very attractive, yellow to bright red and growing in heavy clusters. However, the fruits taste like crabapples and only wildlife appreciates mayhaws raw. Most gardeners only use the mayhaw fruits in cooked forms, like in marmalades, jams, jellies and syrups.

How to Grow a Mayhaw

According to Crataegus tree information, the mayhaw grows in the wild in the lower southern states. The trees grow in marshy areas and swamps, but also thrive in moist, well-draining soil.

Plant this tree on well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. Allow plenty of room around the planting site when you are growing mayhaws. The trees live for a long time and can grow a very wide canopy.

Your tree will probably be easier to handle if you prune it out to one trunk when it is young. Trim the branches occasionally to keep the center open to sunlight. Remember that this is a native tree and won’t require much other maintenance.

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Crataegus spp.
Mayhaws are closely related to Apple and Pear and have been used as dwarfing rootstocks for both. Mayhaw is native to the swamps and lowlands of the Southeast.

• Much more information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing

The fruit has been collected from the wild since antebellum times. Mayhaw fruits are highly prized for jelly, which tastes tart and apple-like. Trees are cultivated in orchards in the South but it is native to lowlying, acid soils of river bottoms, streams and swamp land in the South. The plant is a medium-sized spreading tree, ten to twenty feet tall. It looks very much like a flowering Crabapple.

Mayhaw fruit is apple-like and bright red, one-half to one inch in diameter, borne in clusters. Fruits ripen in May in Zone 8a. The tree prefers welldrained, sandy soils but can tolerate flooding occasionally. Plant twenty feet apart. They tolerate 10 to 15 F when dormant, but bloom early (midFebruary to early March), limiting successful harvest in Zones 7a and colder. Planting on hilltops will reduce the chance of freeze damage to the blooms. The plant can tolerate full sun and partial shade.

First-year trees should receive 1/4 pound of 10-10-10 in March and 1/4 pound in May and July. Fertilize trees older than one year at a rate of 1 pound of 10-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter in early spring, up to a maximum of 5 pounds per tree. Repeat in July if the tree leaves look pale.

Varieties to look for : ‘Texas Superberry’, ‘Lodi’, ‘Saline’, ‘Big Red’

Mayhaws Good For Fruit Landscaping And Wildlife

Besides bearing fruit that can be made into jelly, mayhaw trees enhance the landscape and attract wildlife. They’re available in nurseries during winter and early spring.

Mayhaws are one of the most widely known of the native fruit tree species found in Louisiana. Interest in mayhaws has been building over the last 20 years, and these plants are now managed in fruit orchards around the state.

LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings says you can also find some mayhaw trees at local garden centers during the winter and early spring.

"Many of us have tasted the wonderful jelly made from mayhaw fruit," Owings says, noting that mayhaw jelly has been approved by the Louisiana Legislature as the state jelly.

Berries on mayhaws are primarily red, and they ripen from mid April to mid May. You will occasionally see some yellow-berried mayhaw trees, although they are more common in the wild than in commercial plantings.

Owings explains that mayhaws have a low chilling hour requirement, so white flowers appear anytime from late January through early March. This early flowering sometimes leads to a loss of flowers and fruit from frosts and freezes.

A member of the hawthorn family, mayhaws are native to the southeastern United States. Mayhaws (Crataegus opaca and Crataegus aestivalis) usually reach 20-30 feet tall at maturity and are native to habitats that have low, wet and slightly acid soils.

Trees perform best in full sun to partial shade. The mature canopy is ball shaped and is highly desirable as a small ornamental landscape tree. The mounded form and exfoliating bark also are desirable landscape characteristics. Mayhaws are highly desirable for attracting wildlife.

Do mayhaws have pest problems? Owings says cedar apple rust and fire blight are the primary diseases, with some selections and varieties more tolerant than others. Aphids are occasional pests on growing terminal shoots in the spring.

Super Spur and Texas Star have been the standard cultivars planted by the industry. The Louisiana Mayhaw Association ( is working on the release of a new variety, Red Majesty.

"Try a few mayhaw trees if you have not added these to your landscape," Owings says, adding, "You will be pleased with the landscape attributes, wildlife attraction and fruiting characteristics."

Literature Cited

Craft, B.A., G. Melcher and E. Langston. 1996. Mayhaws, a guide to orchard production and propagation. Morris Publishing. Kearney, NE

McCarter, S.M. and Payne, J.A. 1993. Fire blight caused by Erwinia amylovora on mayhaw in Georgia. Plant Disease 77: 1262.

Payne, J.A. and G.W.Krewer. 1990. Mayhaw: a new crop for the South, pp. 317-321. In: J. Janick and J. E. Simon (eds.) Advances in New Crops. Proc. First Nat'l. Symp., New Crops: Research, Development, Economics. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Payne, J.A., G.W. Krewer and R.R. Eitenmiller. 1990. Mayhaws: trees of pomological and ornamental interest. HortScience, Vol. 25(3):cover, 246, 375.

Puls, E. 1991. Commercial mayhaw culture. La. Coop. Ext. Ser. Pub. 2429.

Status and Revision History
Published on Nov 19, 2009
Published with Full Review on Oct 01, 2012

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