Rowan – Mountain Ash – Root and Branch Review

Rowan – Mountain Ash – Root and Branch Review

mountain ash

The Rowan or Mountain Ash is a member of the same family as the rose and is part of the large Sorbus genus. The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Key Features of the Mountain Ash

  • Latin name – Sorbus aucuparia other common names Rowan, Whitebeam trees or European Mountain Ash
  • Height – up to 50 feet
  • Type of tree – Deciduous
  • Leaves – pinnate with terminal leaflet andtwo rows of long, green, serrated, oblong leaflets
  • Flowers – large flat-headed clusters in creamy white. scented
  • Fruit – orange to red berries half inch diameter
  • Bark – smooth silver-grey
  • Family – Rosaceae

Origins and Distribution of the Mountain Ash

  • At home on high ground.
  • Common in the UK and Europe.

Mountain panorama with rowan

Uses and Attributes of the Mountain Ash

  • Valued for the Rowans ornamental qualities.
  • Berries are great bird food.
  • Revered by Druids, Norse and in Greek legend to ward off evil spirits
  • Rowan jelly made from the berries is a traditional ‘tart’, accompaniment to game and venison.

Rowan DSCF8583

Gardeners Tips for the Mountain Ash

  • The berries and colourful autumn leaves make this a good and hardy specimen tree.
  • Berries can vary in colour depending on the species from white, yellow, red or orange.
  • Grows well even in very acid soil but may not live as long on thin chalky soil


Other types of Mountain Ash

  • Sorbus is a large genus including hardy trees grown for ornamental qualities that include attractive flowers, ornamental foliage which colour richly in autumn and produce berry like fruit.
  • There are 3 sections of Sorbus; Aucuparia sorbus have pinnate leaves with numerous leaflets. Aria section have simple toothed and lobed leaves while Micromeles group are similar to Aria but have deciduous calyces.
  • Sorbus aucuparia has 5 sub species and a parent to numerous hybrids.
  • Sorbus aucuparia ‘Beissneri’ and Sorbus aucuparia ‘Fastigiata’ have an AGM.

Mountain Ash comments from elsewhere

  • ‘The rowan is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman was made, (the first man being made from the ash tree). It was said to have saved the life of the god Thor by bending over a fast flowing river in the Underworld in which Thor was being swept away, and helping him back to the shore’. Trees for Life.
  • In the UK the Rowan is known as a tree associated with witchcraft, protecting people and dwellings.

Sorbus berries on mountain ash

Rowan DSCF8583 by hedgerowmobile CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Mountain panorama with rowan by moonlightbulb CC BY 2.0
Lijsterbes by ednl CC BY 2.0

Read about our series on British tree reviews with a bakers dozen fact sheets

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