The hedgerows are glowing right now with the enchanting white blossoms of Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).
The dense little flower clusters are generously arranged all over the bare branches and stems and shine out form the hedges, a beacon announcing that the darkness of Winter is over and the fresh new growth of Spring is underway.
In magical folklore, Blackthorn is associated with the dark aspect of the triple Goddess, the Crone, the dark of the moon. With her tangled branches and fierce thorns, its easy to see why she is connected with difficult phases of life, struggle, strife, clouded judgement. Yet she acts as guardian of the threshold between Winter and Spring, between life and death – new life born from the death of the old life, new insights and lessons learned from the pain of suffering. Read more about her ancient magical associations here.
As well as being a treasure trove of food for foraging insects and animals, she also has some goodies to offer us humans too, apart from being a sight for sore eyes! The flowers have a mild *almond like taste (see caution below), are rich in polyphenols and other therapeutic substances and in small quantities are edible and medicinal. They can be made into a tea to help gently move the bowels, improve the appetite and benefit the stomach, soothe inflammation and irritations in the mouth, gums and throat when used as a gargle, act as a diuretic, help with eruptive skin conditions and a few can be added to Spring Tonic herb teas for ‘blood cleansing’ as the old herbals call it. For this, use 1 teaspoon of fresh blossoms per cup and take 1 cup daily for 3-4 days.
The flowers have a long tradition as a remedy against some cancers even.
But of course, most will value this plant for the darkly beautiful berries that come in October, the vital ingredient in Sloe Gin. So even if you have no need or use for the flowers, it is well worth remembering where the Blackthorn trees are, especially when they are stand alone trees, these will be heavy with fruit bearing branches in October.
*Caution is needed when using the flowers or leaves due to their amygdalin content, a chemical that ends up as cyanide in our bodies. Don’t be too alarmed by this however as so many of our edible fruits do too, mostly in the flowers and stones (Cherry, Peach, Apples, Apricot, Plum etc). In small doses it actually improves respiration, in larger doses it does the opposite.
Here is a link detailing why and how to make a magical flower essence from blackthorn flowers