blackthorn winter

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So-called because it (typically) falls when blackthorn is flowering.


blackthorn winter (plural blackthorn winters)

  1. (especially rural Britain) A period of cold weather in spring or early summer (March, April or May).
    Synonym: blackberry winter
    • 1885, Great Britain. Meteorological Office, British Rainfall, page 98:
      Blackthorn winters were most severe; (I.) a week at the end of March; (II.) April 13th to 26th. Two perennial springs, in different ranges of hills, failed.
    • 1888 May 19, The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, section Blackthorn Winter, page 590:
      An inveterate custom of English conversation, combined with the engaging versatility of the English climate, from which the custom derives both its origin and its vigour, must be our excuse for devoting some specific attention to this branch of the English weather. [...] In similar fashion we made observe, mutatis mutandis, of the blackthorn winter that, though small, it is peculiarly bitter. [...] Providence does not invariably temper the wind of the blackthorn winter for him. On the contrary, he too often finds that a balmy north-easter will effectually temper the rise of the May-fly, [...]
    • 1957, John Collier, His Monkey Wife: or Married to a Chimp (→ISBN), page 62:
      [...] when, sick for home, she stood in tears amid the alien corn, the chimp's sad heart was charmed by no nightingale, for the bird had not yet returned to Stotfield, and what corn was showing was but a scanty acid green, ragged among the flints of those chilly fields. It was the blackthorn winter, and Emily, who had been sent out to gather primroses, found the thin stuff dress she now wore, designed by Amy to resemble the drabbest of charity child's garments, to be but a miserable covering ...
    • 1989, Brian Lee, Fields and Hedgerows:
      A similar term was 'blackthorn winter', which perhaps referred to the frequent cold snaps that occur when the sloes, or blackthorns, flower in late March or April. Blackthorn is a relative of hawthorn but flowers earlier, before it produces foliage. Blackthorn is a common hedgerow tree of chalk and limestone areas, where it seems to thrive better and produce more fruit than on acid or clay soils. But a blackthorn winter may shrivel the flowers in bud or deter bees from pollinating the flowers, ...

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