Allen D. Owings | 12/22/2005 11:15:11 PM
Mayhaws are one of the most widely known of the native fruit tree species found in Louisiana. Interest in mayhaws has been building over the last 20 years, and these plants are now managed in fruit orchards around the state.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings says you can also find some mayhaw trees at local garden centers during the winter and early spring.
"Many of us have tasted the wonderful jelly made from mayhaw fruit," Owings says, noting that mayhaw jelly has been approved by the Louisiana Legislature as the state jelly.
Berries on mayhaws are primarily red, and they ripen from mid April to mid May. You will occasionally see some yellow-berried mayhaw trees, although they are more common in the wild than in commercial plantings.
Owings explains that mayhaws have a low chilling hour requirement, so white flowers appear anytime from late January through early March. This early flowering sometimes leads to a loss of flowers and fruit from frosts and freezes.
A member of the hawthorn family, mayhaws are native to the southeastern United States. Mayhaws (Crataegus opaca and Crataegus aestivalis) usually reach 20-30 feet tall at maturity and are native to habitats that have low, wet and slightly acid soils.
Trees perform best in full sun to partial shade. The mature canopy is ball shaped and is highly desirable as a small ornamental landscape tree. The mounded form and exfoliating bark also are desirable landscape characteristics. Mayhaws are highly desirable for attracting wildlife.
Do mayhaws have pest problems? Owings says cedar apple rust and fire blight are the primary diseases, with some selections and varieties more tolerant than others. Aphids are occasional pests on growing terminal shoots in the spring.
Super Spur and Texas Star have been the standard cultivars planted by the industry. The Louisiana Mayhaw Association (www.mayhaw.org) is working on the release of a new variety, Red Majesty.
"Try a few mayhaw trees if you have not added these to your landscape," Owings says, adding, "You will be pleased with the landscape attributes, wildlife attraction and fruiting characteristics."
For related landscape information, click on the Lawn and Garden link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. Also, contact the county agent in your local parish LSU AgCenter office.