Table of Contents
Payne, J.A. and G.W. Krewer. 1990. Mayhaw: A new fruit crop for the south.
p. 317-321. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops.
Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Mayhaw: A New Fruit Crop for the South*
Jerry A. Payne and Gerard W. Krewer
- Pest Problems
- Table 1
- Fig. 1
- Fig. 2
The mayhaw, an edible early ripening hawthorn, is a relatively unexplored and
underutilized indigenous fruit tree of the lower southern states. Mayhaws
(Crataegus aestivalis [Walter] Torrey & Gray C. opaca Hook.
& Arn., C. rufula Sarg.) are members of the Rosaceae, subfamily
Maloideae, tribe Crataegeae. This arborescent shrub or round-topped small tree
(8-10 m) has outstanding ornamental characteristics (attractive foliage, showy
blossoms, clusters of brilliantly colored fruits) and is often armed with
thorns. Mayhaws are locally abundant in low, wet areas in the alluvial acid
soils of rivers, streams and swamps from North Carolina to Florida and west to
Arkansas and Texas, (Fig. 1) (Clewell 1985, Coker and Totten 1945, Correll
and Correll 1975, Correll and Johnston 1970, Godfrey and Wooten 1981, Kurz and
Godfrey 1962, Mohr 1969, Phipps 1988, Radford et al. 1974, Sargent 1965, Small
1913, West and Arnold 1952). Hawthorns are easily recognized as a group, but
species are extremely difficult to distinguish due to polyploidy and apomixis
(Cronquist 1981, Phipps 1983). Over 800 species have been described from North
America (Bailey 1960, Render 1960) but only those early ripening edible
southern U.S. Crataegus, series Aestivales, are considered
Mayhaw trees flower profusely and early (late February to mid-March in southern
Georgia, Zone 9A) and the fruit ripens mostly in early May, hence the name
mayhaw. Some clones (selections) ripen through June. The fruit is a small
pome (8-19 mm diameter), yellow to bright red, fragrant, acid and juicy,
resembling cranberries in appearance and crabapples in taste (Fig. 2). Until
recently the fruit has only been used locally in marmalades, butters,
preserves, jellies, condiments, syrups, wines, desserts and as food for
wildlife (Elliot 1971, Gibbons 1974, Halls 1977, Hedrick 1919, Morton 1963,
Reynolds and Ybarra 1984, Wood 1864). However, during the last 5-10 years
mayhaws have begun to receive attention as a possible source of income for
cottage industries. Fruit sells for $2.75-$4.40/kg ($5-$8/gallon) and jelly
for $18-00/liter ($8.50/pint). Because demand exceeds supply, many farmers and
entrepreneurs are showing interest in the culture and utilization of this crop.
Under natural conditions seed do not germinate until overwintered (Hartmann and
Kester 1983). Crataegus species have embryo dormancy and require
treatment in a moist medium at low temperature before germination will occur
(Schopmeyer 1974). Seeds may be an easy way to propagate clones since nucellar
seedlings, which produce fruit like the mother tree, are common in mayhaws
(Wayne Sherman pers. commun.).
Mayhaw softwood stem cuttings can also be rooted under intermittent mist or in
a humidity chamber during the summer. Dipping the cuttings in a root promoting
hormone (8000 ppm K-IBA + 2000 ppm K-NAA) has promoted rooting success of 36.4%
for 'Super Spur': and 34.4% for 'T.O. Super Berry' (G.W. Krewer, and J. Gibson,
unpubl.). Propagation from hardwood and root cuttings have also been reported
by nurserymen, however, no details were revealed.
Mayhaws are easily grafted during dormancy (late winter). A whip and tongue or
simple whip graft can be used. Cleft grafting can be used on larger trees.
Mayhaw appears to be initially compatible with any hawthorn species. In
Mississippi the parsley haw (C. marshallii Eggl.) is considered an
excellent rootstock for C. opaca. Good results have been reported using
cockspur (C. crusgalli L.) and Washington hawthorn (C.
phaenopyrum [L.f.] Med.) rootstock in Texas for C. opaca. Trials in
Louisiana, however, have produced variable results with Washington hawthorn.
In Georgia, the hoghaw (C. flava Aiton) which grows on our sand ridges
can be used but due to its slow growth rate the mayhaw scions may overgrow the
hoghaw rootstock. C. aestivalis can also be grafted onto commercially
available Washington hawthorn seedlings, but it is not known how they will
perform at maturity Mayhaw seedlings are probably the best choice as a
rootstock in damp soils.
About a dozen mayhaw selections have been collected from the wilds (river
bottoms, lime sinks, swamps, sloughs) of Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and
Texas with attention given to size of fruit, harvest or ripening period and
yield (Table 1), but information from field trials is very limited. Most ripen
over a 30-day harvest period, but 'Lori' may have 80% of the fruit ripe at one
time. Little comparative cultivar information is available at this time,
'Super Spur' appears to be the best from a yield and tree form standpoint.
Yields of 30 kg/tree have been reported for 30-40 year old wild mayhaws in
Georgia and 60 kg for a 15-year-old 'Super Spur' in Louisiana. Preliminary
reports indicate that selected mayhaw clones are adaptable to USDA zones 8 and
9. Although some cultivars have a low chilling requirement and bloom early,
other cultivars should be adapted to the piedmont of the southeast. C.
aestivalis cultivars may bloom a few days later than C. opaca
cultivars and may be better choices further north. Bloom occurs over an
extended period of time and the fruit are reported to be fairly frost hardy
once past the bloom period. Winter hardiness may be good. There are reports
of mayhaws fruiting after -25°C (-13°F) (1981) and two year old trees
survived -32°C (-25°F) (1985) without damage (Akin 1985).
Although tolerant of wet, very acid soils, better growth has been observed when
mayhaws are planted on well drained, slightly acid soils. Mayhaw trees are
long-lived and may have a 9m canopy diameter after 20 years. Therefore current
suggested tree spacing for a permanent orchard is 4.6-6.1 m (15-20 ft) in the
row and 5.5-6.1 m (18-20 ft) between rows giving (270-400 trees/ha or 109-161
trees/A). Row spacing must be adjusted to fit the equipment if mechanical
harvesting of mayhaw is desired. Mayhaws should be trained to a single trunk
at the base with the first branches at 45 cm or higher so orchard equipment can
be operated under the tree. Yearly pruning to open up the tree canopy for
greater light penetration may be necessary with most cultivars. Central leader
and modified central leader training systems like those used on apples are
There is limited information on the pest management of mayhaws; however, it is
known that they are susceptible to many of the insects and diseases that attack
other pome fruits (Crops Res. Div. 1960, Forest Service 1985). Several insects
including plum curculio, hawthorn lace bug, flower thrips, roundheaded
appletree borer, whitefringed beetle, leafminers, scales and mealybugs feed on
the foliage, flower, fruit and wood of mayhaw. The plum curculio in particular
has caused extensive damage to fruit in some locations and will probably need
to be controlled in future commercial orchards.
There are numerous diseases known to occur on various hawthorn species but
little information is available on diseases of mayhaws. Quince rust,
(Gymnosporangium clavipes Cke. & Pk.), has been quite severe on some
southern Georgia native mayhaws and several C. aestivalis and C. opaca
cultivars since 1983. Presently no rust control recommendations are available
except the planting of rust-free selections. At this time only two natural
pesticides, insecticidal soap and rotenone/pyrethrin, can be utilized for pest
control on mayhaws destined for food use.
Although mayhaw appears to be initially compatible on most Crataegus
rootstocks, our knowledge of mayhaw rootstocks is rudimentary at best. There
is little published information available on the productivity and long term
compatibility since mayhaw orchard plantings have existed for less than 5
years. Existing information on methods of propagation is also very limited.
Cultivar evaluations have not been conducted in replicated orchard plantings
and low-chilling requirements of many cultivars may limit their commercial
adaptability to zone 9A or 9B.
While only the jelly manufacturing has been investigated by university or
industry personnel, there are many other products made from mayhaws such as
juices, jellies, preserves, candies, pastries and wine that could have
commercial potential. Thus, the opportunity exists for a greatly expanded
market based upon a consistent supply of fruit. If the industry is to
seriously develop, cultivars adapted to mechanical harvesting will be needed.
Unless problems associated with production are solved, supplies will be too
short to allow for alternate product development.
- Akin, J.S. 1985. Mayhaw coming out of the swamp. Pomona 18:70-73.
- Bailey, L.H. 1960. The standard cyclopedia of horticulture. Macmillan, New
- Clewell, A.F. 1985. Guide to the vascular plants of the Florida panhandle.
Florida State Univ. Press, Tallahassee.
- Coker, W.C. and H.R. Totten. 1945. Trees of the southeastern states. Univ. of
North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
- Correll, D.S. and H.B. Correll. 1975. Aquatic and wetland plants of
southwestern United States. Vol. 2. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA.
- Correll, D.S. and M.C. Johnston. 1970. Manual of the vascular flora of Texas.
George Banta Co., Menasha, MN.
- Cronquist, A. 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering
plants. Columbia Univ. Press, New York, NY.
- Crops Research Division-USDA. 1960. Index of plant diseases in the United
States. Agr. Handb. 165. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
- Elliott, S. 1971. A sketch of the botany of South Carolina and Georgia. Vol. 1.
Hafner Publishing Co., New York, NY. (Reprint of 1821 edition).
- Forest Service-USDA. 1985. Insects of eastern forests. Misc. Publ. 1426. U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
- Gibbons, E. 1974. Stalking the healthful herbs. David McKay Co., New York, NY.
- Godfrey, R.K. and J.W. Wooten. 1981. Aquatic and wetland plants of southeastern
United States: Dicotyledons. Univ. of Georgia Press, Athens.
- Halls, L.K. 1977. Southern fruit-producing woody plants used by wildlife. U.S.
Department of Agriculture-Forest Service, New Orleans, LA.
- Hartmann, H.T. and D.E. Kester. 1983. Plant propagation principles and
practices. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
- Hedrick, U.P. 1919. Sturtevant's notes on edible plants. J.B. Lyon Co., Albany,
- Kurz, H. and R.K. Godfrey. 1962. Trees of northern Florida. Univ. of Florida
- Mohr, C. 1969. Plant life of Alabama. Vol. 2. J. Cramer, New York.
- Morton, J.F. 1963. Principal wild food plants of the United States excluding
Alaska and Hawaii. J. Econ. Bot. 17:319-330.
- Phipps, J.B. 1983. Biogeographic, taxonomic, and cladistic relationships
between east Asiatic and North American Crataegus. Ann. Missouri Bot.
- Phipps, J.B. 1988. Crataegus (Maloideae, Rosaceae) of the Southeastern
United States, I. Introduction and series Aestivales. J. Arnold Arbor.
- Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles and C.R. Bell. 1974. Manual of the vascular flora of
the Carolinas. Univ. of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
- Rehder, A. 1960. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America.
Macmillan New York, NY.
- Reynolds, S. and P.W. Ybarra. 1984. So easy to preserve. Georgia Extension
Service, Univ. of Georgia, Athens.
- Sargent, C.S. 1965. Manual of the trees of North America. Vol. 2. Dover Pub.,
New York, NY.
- Schopmeyer, C.S. 1974. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture
Handbook 450. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
- Small, J.K. 1913. Flora of the southeastern United States. Published by the
author, New York, NY.
- West, E. and L.E. Arnold. 1952. The native trees of Florida. Univ. of Florida
- Wood, A. 1864. Class-book of botany. A.S. Barnes & Burr, Chicago, IL.
*Acknowledgements. We thank Sherwood Akin, Jerry Baron, Major Collins, Tom
Crocker, Herbert Durand, Joseph Elsom Harvey Gaskamp, Wayne McLaurin, Charles
Mims, Jane and Maurice Palmer, Bob Stewart, Burl Turnage and T.O. Warren for
freely sharing their knowledge, experience and unpublished data on mayhaw
products, culture, plantings, propagation and processing.
We gratefully acknowledge the following for input in native mayhaw
distribution: AlabamaJohn D. Freeman; ArkansasEdwin B. Smith;
FloridaLoran C. Anderson, Robert K. Godfrey, GeorgiaNancy Coile,
Laurie Consaul; LouisianaF. Dale Thomas, Lowell E. Urbatsch;
MississippiSidney McDaniel; North CarolinaJ.R. Massey; South
CarolinaCynthia Aulbach-Smith, Victoria Hollowell; TexasHerbert Durand,
Elray Nixon. We are especially indebted to J.B. Phipps, Ontario, Canada for
sharing his unpublished distribution of mayhaw.
Table 1. Major mayhaw selections with information on fruit appearance,
size and peak harvest based on southern Georgia conditions.
zSelections from the wild by Thomas Crocker & Tom Stone, Thomas County, GA.
|Cultivar ||Appearance ||Size |
|Skin red; elongated; white flesh ||13 ||1 ||80% ripe at one time|
|Skin red; elongated; white flesh ||13 ||6 ||Concentrated ripening|
|'Big Red' ('#1 Big')y C. opaca ||Skin red; round; red flesh ||16-19 ||1 ||Large fruit, late blooming|
|'Red & Yellow'y C. opaca ||Skin red & yellow; oblong or sub-globose; yellow flesh ||13-16 ||1 ||Heavy bearer, precocious|
|'Heavy'y C. opaca ||Skin red; round; white flesh ||13 ||1 ||Twiggy growth habit, Heavy bearer; rust susceptible|
|'Mason's Super Berry' ('Texas Super Berry')x C. opaca ||Skin red; round; reddish flesh ||16-19 ||1 ||Attractive fruit, early blooming; fruit hangs well on tree|
|'T.O. Super Berry'x C.opaca ||Skin red; round; reddish flesh ||16-19 ||1 ||Attractive fruit|
|'Highway Super Berry'x C. opaca ||Skin red; round; reddish flesh ||16-19 || ||Thorny tree|
|'Super Spur'w C. opaca ||Skin red & yellow, round; yellow flesh ||16-19 ||1 ||Excellent production; spur-type tree; rust susceptible; fruit drops when ripe|
ySelections from the wild by T.O. Warren, Hattiesburg MS.
xSelections from the wild by Durand, Mason, Warren, and Akin, Buna, TX.
wSelections from the wild by J.S. Akin, Sibley, LA.
Fig. 1. Native range of mayhaw, Crataegus aestivalis, C. opaca, C.
rufula, in North America.
Fig. 2. Fruit clusters of mayhaw, (a) 'Heavy'
(b) 'Mason's Super Berry'
(c) 'Big Red'
(d) 'Red and Yellow'.
Last update August 28, 1997