Blackthorn

Prunus spinosa

About

Blackthorn is a thorny shrub of hedgerows and woodland edges. It bursts into life in March and April when masses of white flowers appear. During the autumn and winter, deep purple fruits (known as 'sloes') ripen on its branches. Blackthorn is an important species for all kinds of wildlife, but is especially vital for the rare Black Hairstreak butterfly who lays its eggs in Blackthorn hedges. Here, they overwinter and the caterpillars emerge in spring ready to feed on the Blackthorn.

How to identify

Blackthorn has small, oval leaves and five-petalled white flowers. It can be distinguished from the similar Wild Plum or Bullace by its smaller fruit and narrower leaves.

Where to find it

Widespread.

Habitats

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Blackthorn is the foodplant of the rare Black Hairstreak butterfly which declined massively during the 20th century - it is now restricted to just 45 sites. The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves and hedgerows sympathetically for all kinds of species. A mix of coppicing, hedgelaying, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland and hedgerow wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for butterflies.

Local information

Blackthorn is an essential host species for the rare black hairstreak which is only found in selected sites in the east Midlands, particularly in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. These sites include BBOWT reserves within the Bernwood Forest project such as Asham Meads, Bernwood Meadows, Finemere Wood, Rushbeds Wood and Whitecross Green Wood. It is also a common hedgerow species and blackthorn hedges in areas such as Meadow Farm are important habitats for many species including whitethroat and yellowhammer.

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Species information

Common name
Blackthorn
Latin name
Prunus spinosa
Category
Trees and shrubs
Statistics
Height: 6-7m
Conservation status
Common.