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Plant Profile: Christ’s Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi)

Also known as Jerusalem thorn, garland thorn, or crown of thorns, this deciduous shrub or small tree is native to the Mediterranean region and southwest and central Asia.  It is a member of the hawthorn family, Rhamnaceae, that also inclues California lilac and jujube tree. The straggly plants grow 16-20′ tall and have zigzag pliable branches bearing  ovate to round, leathery, glossy green leaves  3/4-1″ long.  Each leaf is finely toothed and has a straight and a curved stipular spines on the outside of each twist.  From July to August clusters of small greenish flowers appear and are followed by leathery, brownish yellow nutlets surrounded by a circular wing about 1″ across.  Christ’s thorn is sometimes used as a hedge.  The branches may have been used to make the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head before the crucifixion but Ziziphus spina-christi (Christ’s thorn jujube) has also been suggested.   The genus name, Paliurus,  is the ancient Greek name for this species.  The specific epithet, spina-christi, are the Latin words meaning thorns of Christ and refer to its supposed use at the crucifixion.  Photo Credit Fritz Geller Grim Wikipedia

Type: Deciduous shrub or small tree

Outstanding Feature: Possible biblical crown of thorns

Form: Vase-shaped; straggly

Growth Rate: Slow to moderate

Bloom: Clusters of greenish small greenish yellow flowers from July to August

Size: 16-20′ H x 16-20′ W

Light: Full sun to light shade

Soil: Average, dry to medium moist, well-drained; tolerates drought and very alkaline conditions.

Hardiness: Zones 7-10

Care: Plants regrow from the base if cut back.

Pests and Diseases: Not available;  resistant to honey fungus

Propagation: Seed, semi-ripe cuttings in summer, root cuttings in winter, layering

Outstanding Selections: None

Photo Credit: Photo Credit Fritz Geller Grim Wikipedia