(News article for April 2018)
Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying the Feliciana Master Gardeners on their tour of a local mayhaw orchard in Jackson, Louisiana. My parents have a few mayhaw trees so I was familiar with the tree but I was delighted to learn more about the history of mayhaw cultivation, select cultivars, disease maintenance, and general care of mayhaw trees.
Mayhaws are the fruit of the native thorny hawthorn tree. In 2014 the mayhaw tree was adopted as the official state fruit tree of Louisiana and mayhaw jelly is one of the two official state jellies. The trees produce spectacular blooms in early spring followed by a tart, red berry that is popular for making jelly. After the first frost the tree’s leaves turn yellow and provide beautiful fall foliage. Because they are native to Louisiana, mayhaw trees do well in this area and many homeowners are adding them to their landscape for their appearance and for the fruit they produce.
Many of the mayhaw cultivars available were developed right here in Louisiana. If you are interested in planting mayhaw trees consider the following cultivars:
- “Maxine” is a late blooming cultivar with a beautiful shape. It is a heavy producer of a large (.8 inch), red fruit. Maxine has more thorns than some cultivars.
- “Royal Star” is an early blooming cultivar that produces a deep red, almost purple mayhaw fruit. It has little to no thorns and the branches grow in an upright pattern making it easy to mow under the tree.
- “Spectacular” is an early blooming cultivar that produces a very large (0.8-0.85 inch) fruit. This selection needs another early blooming pollinator such as Royal Star.
- “Hope 13” produces a very large (.9 inch), dark red fruit. It has good resistance to fire blight.
Mayhaw trees should be planted in moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5 and should be planted roughly 20-30 feet apart to allow for limb growth. Established trees will benefit from yearly fertilization of one pound of 5-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter. More specific recommendations can be obtained by having the soil tested. The trees should be pruned to a modified open center system (like a peach tree) to make fruit easier to harvest.
There are a couple of diseases that you need to watch out for when growing mayhaw trees. The trees are susceptible to quince rust. Quince rust is a fungus that causes orange looking pimples to cover mayhaw berries and stems. Eastern red cedar trees host the fungus causing infections to be worse in areas where eastern red cedar abounds. To prevent quince rust you need to spray with a fungicide when the tree blooms. Products like Rally or Immunox Multipurpose Fungicide will do the trick.
Fire blight is also a concern with mayhaw trees. Fire blight is a bacterial infection that causes tree limbs to die back and leaves to turn brownish black. The tip of the limb will curl under creating a characteristic “shepherds hook.” The bacteria will hang around in the wounds of infected limbs and is easily spread by honey bees in spring when trees bloom. Fire blight cannot be cured but you can spray during or just prior to blooming with copper fungicide to prevent the bacteria from spreading. Copper fungicide is in products like Tri-Basic Copper Sulfate and Kocide.
Mr. Arnold Baham has raised mayhaws throughout his retirement in Jackson, LA. Today, his farm, Lynnberry Farms, consists of two beautifully manicured acres of mayhaw trees and he enjoys grafting and cultivating the trees to sell as well as selling the fruit his orchard produces. Mr. Arnold was kind enough to host the Feliciana Master Gardeners for a tour where he discussed popular cultivars and disease management. He also provided a grafting demonstration and discussed how to successfully graft mayhaw trees. If you are interested in learning more about mayhaw trees check out the Louisiana Mayhaw Association website www.mayhaw.org. The website is full of information about varieties, recipes, the annual association conference, and places to purchase mayhaw trees and fruit.
Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit The LSU AgCenter website.
Mayhaw orchard in Jackson, LA. Photo by Jessie Hoover.