Crataegus (Hawthorn) ‘Winter King’

Eight years ago, when moving into our new home out in the “country” here in New Jersey, the yard was a blank canvas. 
There was literally zero landscaping. The only mature trees were in the woods at the back of the property.  
It was exciting to be able to create something from scratch … and terrifying to have to create something from scratch.  
Since then, I’ve done my best to try and add as many trees as possible, but as we all know, trees aren’t exactly cheap. And with that hefty expense, comes the pressure to make sure that the trees purchased produce the biggest bang for the buck.
Which leads me to our discussion for today. A tree that I’ve only had for roughly two years but already love – Crataegus ‘Winter King':   

Some information on this tree:

  • Height ranges from 20 to 30 feet with a similar spread 
  • Zone 4-7 
  • Full sun 
  • Deciduous 
  • Blooms for about two weeks in early to mid May here in zone 6B 
  • Filled with berries in summer that emerge red and turn orange into winter 
  • Leaves turn a mix of gold, red, bronze in autumn 
  • The silver bark peels to reveal the orange bark underneath 
  • Shape is upright and dense; vase-like 
  • Native to North America 
  • Tolerates clay and wet soil (woo hoo)
  • More disease resistant than other Hawthorn trees 

And here’s what I’ve witnessed in the two short years since I purchased this gem.

The leaves and buds emerge almost simultaneously at the end of April:

And the blooms appear soon after, lasting about two weeks:

One quick side note: I read that these flowers are “malodorous” which in simple terms means “they smell like hell”. 
Now as you may know, I have virtually no sense of smell but even I could attest to the fact that they do not smell so great. But who cares? Who gets their nose all up and in there? 
Most importantly, I have a new word for my vocabulary that I will be sure to drop in a conversation real soon. Back to our discussion …     
After the blooms have faded, the leaves have held up well through both a wet and dry summer, which works for me. 
Eventually, the berries emerge red in color, slowly transforming into a shade of orange like they are as of today. Through research on the web, it appears that songbirds dine on these berries more than any other bird but I’ve yet to catch any in the act. They must not taste so great since these berries survive on the branches deep into winter: 

I have yet to witness much of a fall color on this Hawthorn other than some yellowing of the leaves, which soon turn brown and drop:

However, one of the best, if not THE best attributes of this tree is its peeling bark. As larger pieces of the bark fall off, the orange bark underneath is exposed giving it awesome “winter” interest:

From winter to early spring, ‘Winter King’ Hawthorn, even in its earliest stages of growth like I am experiencing, has a phenomenal silhouette and stands out in my landscape:  

I am expecting more of the same as this tree evolves over the next few years and will be sure to report out on its progress.


7 thoughts on “Crataegus (Hawthorn) ‘Winter King’”

  1. Love the “Winter King”. The only thing I would say is plant two or four more in a loose grouping, you seem to have the space. The only problem here is we have to spray for Winter Moth as with all plants in the Rosaceae family.

  2. I had a Washington Hawthorn several years ago, and I planted it too close to a pathway. The thorns were deadly if you brushed up against it. It was also too close to the neighbor’s juniper and got some type of gall from it. Ovverall, it was just the wrong place. Yours looks like it has plenty of room to admire from afar and the flowers do look beautiful even if they have a repulsive fragrance.


  3. I really like your hawthorn, malodorous or not. It’s the dapper shape and structure that I enjoy — a small, shapely, stiffly structured tree — and those beautiful flowers are a bonus. The smell not so much. I have long wanted to grow one but I have junipers (Eastern red cedar) all around and it is the host for rust that defoliates hawthorns (and apples) here. Winter King is supposed to be resistant, but I fear that means it gets it anyway, just not as bad. You have no problems with rust on your beautiful young tree?

  4. I have Bradford Pears that also are “stinky”. I like the shape of the tree and as another said – I’d plant another couple as it would make a really nice grouping. The bark reminds me of a River Birch tree or other trees that do the same – very pretty.

  5. The Winter King is one we had in the Learning Garden in Virginia. It is a nice native tree. I have some native Hawthorns in my garden. They are pretty small right now…about a foot tall. They are full of berries at this time, love it!

  6. My Mom had a Washington Hawthorne in our garden where I grew up and it really REEKED ! These trees do stink but I remember the one fall a flock of Cedar Waxwings came and in 2 days cleaned the tree of all the berries.

    Can’t wait to see this tree in my garden next year !

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