10 things you may not know about the Glastonbury Holy Thorn

Glastonbury Abbey's famous Holy Thorn has been shortlisted in the Tree of the Year contest.

While the votes are being cast, here are ten things you might now know about this famous flowerer:

  • The Holy Thorn spends Christmas with the Queen - the custom of sending a cutting to decorate the Royal festive table dates back to the 17th century
  • It bears flowers and berries at the same time - unlike ordinary hawthorn trees, it flowers at Christmas time as well as in the spring
The tree flowers twice a year, at Easter and Christmas
  • The belief that the Glastonbury Holy Thorn blossomed on Christmas Day created great stress in 1753, when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted to bring Britain into line with Europe and eleven days were dropped from the month of September:

A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorn on Christmas-day, new style; but, to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas-day, old style, when it blowed as usual.

– Gentleman's Magazine, 1752
  • It is associated with legends about Joseph of Arimathea and the arrival of Christianity in Britain
  • The "original" Glastonbury Thorn was cut down and burned as a relic of superstition during the English Civil War.
  • Legend has it that as the thorn was cut down, its thorns blinded the axe man in one eye
One was planted on Wearyall Hill in 1951 to replace the tree burned in the 17th century Credit: ITV News
  • Since then, the tree has been vandalised multiple times
  • The original tree has been propagated a few times, with one tree growing at Glastonbury Abbey and another at the Church of St John
  • In 1965, the Queen erected a wooden cross at Glastonbury with the following inscription:

The cross, the symbol of our faith, the gift of Queen Elizabeth II, marks a Christian sanctuary so ancient that only legend can record its origin

– Inscription