Sloe or Blackthorn
Prunus spinosa
Draighean

Native (Deciduous)

This is a dense shrub up to six metres tall with almost black branches. Many short side-shoots are produced which become thorns. Leaves are oval, one to four centimetres long, slightly hairy when young but more or less hairless when mature, and faintly toothed. Blackthorn flowers early in the spring, before the leaves have opened. Flowers are white almost without stalks, and one to two centimetres across singly or in pairs. The fruits are blue-black and resemble minature plums, about 1.5 centimetres across, but never become sweet and tasty.

Blackthorn is a common tree in hedges and woods. It sometimes forms almost pure and extremely dense scrub. It is not very tolerant of deep shade and tends to die out when overtopped by larger trees. It has had many uses and is an ideal tree to cut for walking sticks or tough shillelaghs. Its fruits can be used for making wine or as a flavouring for gin. Sloe gin is made by filling a bottle with sloes, adding some sugar, topping up with gin and leaving for as long as possible before drinking.