What are Mayhaw Berry Trees?
“Mayhaws,” as they are known here in north Florida, only grow in the lowlands of the Deep South. If you grew up around here, you might remember harvesting Mayhaw Berries with your grandmother in swamps or local wetlands.
In the United States, they’ve grown naturally throughout north Florida and south Georgia, Louisiana or Texas (in the lowlands of Region 8). Lots of people visiting from the north have never heard of Mayhaw, Mayhaw Berries or Mayhaw Jelly.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey wiped out many of the Mayhaw Trees in Texas and Louisiana.
The name comes from a combination of “May,” for the month the berries reliably become ripe, and “Hawthorn,” since they are member of the group of trees called Hawthorn. As Hawthorns, they are thorny trees or large shrubs in the same family as Rose, Apple, Peach and Plum. The berries look kind of like cranberries, but they taste more like a mild apple.
No, you don’t need a swamp to grow Mayhaw Trees
It is a myth that they have to grow in water. They are drought-tolerant as well as flood-tolerant. They’ve always been found in wetlands because they can’t tolerate fire, and fire is a natural occurrence in Florida forests.
Mayhaws make great landscape trees
Mayhaw Berry trees not only make locally famous berries, they make great landscape trees here. Given enough room and sunlight, they grow into a sustainable tree with a uniform, round shape no more than 40′ high. Plant them 20 to 25 feet apart and water regularly until they become established. Plan to prune the lower shrubby branches in the first years of development.
They are actually quite adaptable. They are drought tolerant and need good sunlight to thrive. It’s fire they can’t tolerate, which is why only those in water survived in native conditions where forest fires were common.
They are self-pollinating, but do much better with other Mayhaw Trees nearby. Three is a good grouping.
They are lowland plants, which means their root system is shallow. This makes sense since they never had to reach deep for water. In practical terms, what this means for us is that we can’t pick up a potted tree by the trunk; we need to make sure people pick them up by the pot or the tree will pop out of the pot!
They are deciduous, which means they lose their leaves in the winter. Like most fruit trees, they need some very cold, even frozen hours in the winter. They have a fine, silvery gray, lacy network of bare limbs and twigs.
What is Mayhaw Jelly?
If you grew up here, you would also know about Mayhaw Berry Jelly. Homemade Mayhaw Jelly is a well-loved concoction southerners take a lot of pride in. We make Mayhaw Jelly here at Golden Acres Ranch. A recent visitor told us ours has the “prettiest color” they’d ever seen.
Tree Availability & Pricing
Here at Golden Acres ranch we have a small inventory for local folks who can pick them up here at the ranch. Most of these are grafts propagated from some of our best trees, or from great trees in other locations, like Louisiana.
|4-gal, grafted Trees|
Named varieties available:
Red Champ, Maxine, Double G, Monticello
|1-gal Seedlings, unnamed from proven stock||$20|
The grafted plants are harder to produce, but you get a more consistent result and bigger berries. Their names come from their tree of origin which were selected for vitality and large, red berries.
Seedlings are more unpredictable, although Mayhaws tend to grow pretty true to their parent.
The most informative article we’ve seen on the Mayhaw Berry Tree is from Temperate Climate Permaculture by John Kitsteiner.