Jerusalem thorn, garland thorn
Jerusalem thorn, garland thorn (Eng), espina de Cristo, espina santa, cambrón (Spa), arn, espina de Crist, espina negra, espina vera, espinavés, spinavessa, espinavís, paliür (Cat), zumalakar, oila-karana (Baq), espinha-santa, paliuro (Glg), arvore-da-coroa-de-espinhos, espinheiro, paliuro (Por).
“On Calvary, the swallows took from Christ the thousand thorns. The swallows fly down serenely, to remove the thorns from Jesus of Nazareth”.
The Jerusalem thorn is a shrub that can attain the form of a tree and reach up to 5 m in height. The twigs are arranged in a gentle, distinctive zigzag. They hang down a little and are hairy when young, as are the leaves, but this incipient down is lost as the plant matures. The leaves are simple, deciduous and alternate on the branches. They are 2-4 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide. They are green and shiny on the upper side, and rather matt and pale green on the underside. The margin has a few, hard to see teeth, and may appear whole. The base of the leaf stalk has a few small, steely thorns that tend to go unnoticed, but which can lacerate flesh if touched carelessly. The small, yellowish, fragrant flowers appear in spring. The fruit are very peculiar. They are structures that have three central seeds surrounded by a rounded, flattened, disk-shaped wing that has ribs, and which helps their dispersal by the wind.
This species grows in the clearings and edges of holm and cork oak forests, along paths, forming hedgerows, borders and stands on any type of substrate. This species suffers a lot in frosts, so its natural range does not usually extend above 500 m altitude.
It is found in southern Europe, from the western Mediterranean region to the shores of the Black Sea in the Crimea, the Caucasus, the Near and Middle East, central Asia, and the foothills of the Himalayas. On the Iberian Peninsula is it confined to the northeastern quadrant, although it has become naturalized in some parts of the La Vera region, the Basque country, the Guadalquivir River basin, and close to the city of Córdoba.