Blackthorn or sloe, is a very common shrub or small tree of hedgerows and woodland which grows almost everywhere throughout the British Isles. It often forms dense impenetrable thickets, and has vicious black thorns.
In February, blackthorn produces masses of small white flowers that look like snow, and these usually appear before the leaves. Later in the autumn it produces purple-black fruits called ‘sloes’. They are used to make sloe wine, sloe gin or sloe cheese.
The sloe is the ancestor of our cultivated plums, and man has been eating them for thousands of years.
Though the tree is too small for timber, stakes and walking sticks are made from it, and was used to make the traditional Irish shillelagh.