Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fleshy Hawthorn - Crataegus succulenta   Schrader ex Link
Members of Rosaceae:
Members of Crataegus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Rosaceae
AuthorSchrader ex Link
DistributionWidely scattered in the Mountains, south to at least Buncombe County. Specimens from Alamance and Orange counties, and a report from Stokes County, all in the Piedmont, are hereby treated as "Provenance Uncertain". (This is essentially a montane species in the mid-Atlantic states.)

This is a very wide-ranging species, occurring north from southeastern Canada south to western NC, and MO, but found essentially in the mountains in the southern part of the range.
AbundanceRare and apparently quite local in the Mountains, with only a few county records, though likely not as rare as that might suggest due to being overlooked. The NCNHP considers it a Significantly Rare species.
HabitatThis species is found mainly at high elevations, on mountaintops, edges of such forests, high elevation thickets and outcrops margins, and rarely along river banks. It apparently favors sites over mafic rocks (Weakley 2018).
PhenologyBlooms from April to June, and fruits in September and October.
IdentificationThis is a large shrub or small tree, to about 20 feet tall. It has rather elliptical to almost rounded leaves, with sharp but low teeth along the outer margin toward the tip, with no lobes on the leaves. Quite noticeable are the shiny upper surfaces and the deeply entrenched parallel veins as seen on the top side, as well. The scientific name provides another field mark, in that the fruit becomes quite soft and fleshy when fully mature, and they may hang on the trees after leaf fall. Lance (2014) provides a good discussion of this species in NC (actually, two varieties) and is puzzled over why the species is so rare or local in the mountains. Thus, sadly you may have difficulty finding this species on your own in the higher elevations of the mountains, with the best chance probably along the New River in Ashe County and at high elevations in that county (which has many mountains composed of amphibolite, a mafic rock).
Taxonomic CommentsSeveral varieties have been named, and two occur in NC – the nominate var. succulenta, found south at least to Buncombe County, and var. neofluvialis, found mainly along and close to the New River in NC and VA (but probably also at high elevations). Unlike with most of the Crataegus species now considered as valid species in NC, this was one of 13 listed as good species in RAB (1968), though at that time it was only known from Ashe County. Sadly, its range in the state has been expanded very little through new discoveries in recent decades.

Other Common Name(s)Succulent Hawthorn
State RankS1S2
Global RankG5
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