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The Common Hawthorn is a shrub or small tree 5–14 m tall, with a dense crown. The bark is dull brown with vertical orange cracks. The younger stems bear sharp thorns, 1 to 1.5 cm long. The leaves are 2–4 cm long, obovate and deeply lobed, sometimes almost to the midrib, with the lobes spreading at a wide angle. The upper surface is dark green above and paler underneath.
Hawthorn grows in hedgerows, scrub, thickets and woodlands in a range of habitats; it seems to favour calcareous soils, open habitats, heaths and rocky areas.