Alternate name: Stagbush, Sweethaw, Smooth Blackhaw
Family: Caprifoliaceae, Honeysuckle view all from this family
Description Sturdy, shapely deciduous shrub or small tree with spreading branches. Trunk short, crooked and stout. Bark reddish-brown, very rough on old stems. Branchlets red, then green, finally dark brown tinged with red. Winter buds coated with rusty tomentum. Flower buds ovate. Leaves simple, broad, oval, ovate or orbicular, wedge-shaped or rounded at base, serrate, acute, with serrated edges with a grooved and slightly winged red petiole; they turn red in fall. Leaves superficially similar to some species of Prunus; thus "prunifolium". Flower clusters white, followed by yellow berries turning blue-black. Attractive, dark-green foliage becomes reddish-purple in fall. Fruit, a drupe, dark blue-black with glaucous bloom, hangs until winter, becomes edible after being frosted, then eaten by birds; the stone is flat and even, broadly oval.
Dimensions Height: 6 m. (20 ft.)
Diameter: 10 cm. (4 in.).
Habitat Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Canyons & valleys, Watersides (fresh).
Range Mid-Atlantic, New England, Southeast, Texas, Plains, Great Lakes.
Discussion Native Americans used a decoction of black haw to treat gynecological conditions, including menstrual cramps, aiding recovery after childbirth, and in treating the effects of menopause. Black haw used to treat menstrual pain, and morning sickness. Due to antispasmodic properties, the plant may also be of use in treating cramps of the digestive tract or the bile ducts.
Black haw's primary use was to prevent miscarriages. American slaveholders also used the plant to prevent abortions. Slaves were a valuable asset, and their owner also owned their offspring, so ensuring that female slaves gave birth was of paramount importance. In defiance, some slave women would attempt to use cotton seeds to cause a miscarriage. The slaveowners would therefore force pregnant slaves to drink an infusion of black haw to prevent that.
Primary use of black haw today is to prevent menstrual cramps. The salicin in black haw may also be of use in pain relief.
Comments For best flowers and fruit, give black haw at least one-half day of sunlight. The plant is durable and pest free.
Exposure Preference Sun to partial shade.
Flower April - May
Native Distribution Connecticut to Michigan & Kansas, s. to Georgia & Texas
Site Preference Low to upland wood edges; thickets; roadsides
Soil Preference Moist to dry, well-drained soils. pH 6.6-8.
Wildlife Value Berries attract birds and mammals.