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Shrub or small tree to 10 m, dbh ~0.2 m. Bark exfoliating and becoming smooth. Branchlets greyish brown, pubescent; thorns slender, straight or slightly recurved, (1–)2–3(–5) cm long. Leaves deciduous, 1.5–3 cm long, ovate to deltoid in outline, both surfaces densely pubescent when young, pubescence gradually eroding to remain on the veins only at maturity, two to eight secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margin with (two to) three to four (to five) deep or shallow lobes on each side of the midrib, lobe margins serrate, apex acute; petiole 1–2 cm long, pubescent; stipules deciduous. Inflorescence pubescent, corymbose with three to eight flowers. Flowers white (rarely pink), 1.2–1.7 cm diameter; hypanthium largely glabrous, sepals narrowly triangular and glandular-serrate, petals elliptic, 0.6–0.8 cm long, stamens 20 with red anthers. Fruit 0.4–0.6 cm long, ellipsoid to spherical, glossy red (rarely dull orange), seeds one to two (to three). Flowering March to April (USA). Phipps 1998. Distribution USA: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, southern Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, southern Missouri, North Carolina, southeast Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia. Habitat Open, wooded areas with wet or well-drained soils, including forest clearings, woodland edges and fence lines. USDA Hardiness Zone 4–5. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Phipps 1998, Phipps et al. 2003; NT285.
The Parsley Haw is so-named on account of its small, deeply lobed leaves, perhaps the most ornamental foliage of any American Crataegus (Sternberg 2004) – though it should not be used as a garnish. The small flowers have red anthers and are succeeded by petite shining scarlet fruits, adding to the dainty appearance of the tree (Phipps et al. 2003, Sternberg 2004). In addition it has attractively exfoliating bark, peeling in shades of yellow, grey and brown. Phipps et al. (2003) describe it as a superior ornamental and a four-season tree, suggesting that it should be more widely cultivated. In its native habitat it can grow in wet places, an adaptation that should give it some horticultural flexibility, but it should be sought from the more northern parts of its distribution. Crataegus marshallii is popular with native plant enthusiasts in the southern United States, but is rare elsewhere.