Blackthorn Prunus spinosa is now distinctive with white flowers against black branches that do not yet have leaves. The plant typically suckers to form thorny thickets.
The Cherry Plum or Myrobalan Prunus cerasifera starts to flower even earlier but has some leaves on greener twigs. It is often used in hedges and a purple leaved form is common in gardens.
Later in the year Blackthorn carries purple fruit which give its alternative name of Sloe. Sloe gin is traditionally made from fruit picked in autumn after the first frost. Each berry is pricked -traditionally with a thorn from the bush- and a jar is filled half way with the berries. Gin is added along with sugar and further flavour comes from cloves or cinnamon.
A well-known brand of cider is named after Blackthorn but is made from apples. (Cherry Plum fruits are red.) Blackthorn is also traditionally used for making walking sticks.