Hidden just south of the train tracks by the car wash on First Avenue is a wild hawthorn tree patiently awaiting liberation.  It seems to me that hawthorns are an underappreciated member of the Illinois landscape . They‘re tough trees – and this specimen is tougher than most – suffering the encroachment of both buckthorn and refuse.

To my eye, hawthorns have all of the nobility and character of oaks, in a more pint-sized ornamental form.  These understory trees can be found all along the Des Plaines River, and their berries are a food source for wildlife.   Commuters into Chicago can see dozens of hawthorns along the Green Line near the Conservatory in Garfield Park. 

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Dave Coulter

I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...