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ORRIN MORRIS: Thorny hawthorn blooms through May

I am departing from featuring my pretty wildflowers so that I can include flowering shrubs and trees. After all, how could anyone living in the South ignore the beauty of the redbud, flowering dogwood, pussy willow, black locust and snowbell, to name a few?

Whenever we focus on blooms of shrubs or small trees I think of the first Psalm and the contrast of the righteous person to the wicked. Of the righteous, God says, "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Ps. 1:3 KJV)HAWTHORN

Crataegus oxyacanthaThis shrub can be seen throughout our county, but my favorite site is on the path to the visitor's center at Panola Mountain State Park. Hawthorns are not picky about the habitat where they thrive. They may be seen in fields, along fences, beside the road or mingled amid evergreen or deciduous trees.

A large book would be required on the controversy by botanists attempting to identify the many species in the genus called hawthorn. The estimates for the U.S. range from 100 to 1,200 varieties and average around 800. About 30 of the Southern species are shrubs, while 70 or more others are classified as small trees.

The pure white blooms of our local hawthorn appear from now through May. The lustrous green leaves give accent to the five-petaled flowers that often occur in large clusters.

The fruit is a small pome that holds two to five bone-hard nutlets. Most hawthorn fruit is scarlet or orange, making a delightful ornamental in some folks' yards. Certain species of hawthorn have blue fruit, but most in our area are reddish-orange. Watch out for the thorns as the genus name implies.

The Scripture verse used in the introduction praises a person whose character is sturdy like a tree. However, the psalmist elaborates on the attitude and conduct of such a person when he wrote, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalms 1:1-2 KJV)

May you be sturdy like a tall fruitful tree and support your church and the many local efforts to clothe, feed and house those who need such assistance.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.