Prunus spinosa


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



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.

Species information

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