Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), also known as Mountain Ash, is very pretty native tree often planted in parks and on streets. It is often referred to as "The Tree of Life".

  • Rowan Tree  -  Sorbus Aucuparia  -  Berries
  • Rowan Tree  -  Sorbus Aucuparia  -  Leaves
  • Rowan Tree  -  Sorbus Aucuparia  -  Sapling In Tree Shelter At Knepp Wildland
  • Rowan Tree  -  Sorbus Aucuparia  -  Young Sapling
  • Rowan Tree  -  Sorbus Aucuparia  -  Winter Stems And Buds

Useful info about Rowan trees

Latin NameSorbus aucuparia
TypeDeciduous (loses its leaves in winter)
HeightCan grow up to 5 - 10 metres (18 - 35 feet)
SpreadThe branches can spread out to 5 - 10 metres (18 - 35 feet)
Soil Types PreferredChalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Locations SuitableFarmland, Gardens, Parks
FlowersWhite, scented flowers in spring
FruitRed berries in autumn
Celtic Tree MonthJanuary 21 - February 17

Similar Species


The Rowan tree is called Mountain Ash because its leaves are similar those of an Ash tree and it grows well on hillsides and mountains. The two trees are unrelated though.

Rowan is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree typically growing to 8 - 10 metres tall. Occasionally it will reach 20 - 28 metres.

Rowan is native to most of Europe, except for the far south, and northern Asia.

In the south of its range, in the Mediterranean region, it is confined to high altitudes in mountains.

Rowan is a native species seen at its best amongst the acid rocky uplands of the north and in Wales.

Its display of golden leaves and bunches of radiant scarlet berries on a fine October day is a memorable sight.

In woodlands it grows well in association with Sessile Oak.

The bark is smooth, silvery grey on young trees, becoming scaly pale grey-brown and occasionally fissured on old trees. The shoots are green and variably hairy at first, becoming grey-brown and hairless; the buds are conspicuous, purple-brown, and often densely hairy.

The leaves are 10 - 22 cm long and 6 - 12 cm broad, with 9 - 19 leaflets. Each leaflet is 3 - 7 cm long and 15 - 23 mm broad, with a coarsely serrated margin.

The foliage and bark is eaten by Red Deer, Roe Deer, and Mountain Hares, and a small number of insect larvae, including leaf-miners in the genus Stigmella, and the moth Venusia cambrica. The snail Helix aspersa also feeds on the leaves.

Creamy white flowers are produced in the spring and, after insect pollinate them, they turn into orange / red berries in late summer / early autumn.

The fruit is an important food resource for many birds, notably Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes and Waxwings, which in turn disperse the seeds in their droppings. The seeds are eaten by Pine Grosbeaks and other large finches.

The Rowan is very tolerant of cold and is often found at high altitude on mountains. In the UK it occurs at up to 1,000 metres altitude, higher than any other tree, and in France up to 2,000 metres.

It is very tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, including thin acid soils and cracks in cliffs. It also fairly frequently grows as an epiphyte in clefts or cavities of larger trees such as Scots Pines, though epiphytic specimens rarely have growing conditions adequate for them to reach maturity.


Rowan berries are usually very bitter and inedible when raw. However, they are used to make jam or jelly with a distinctive, bitter flavour. Rowan jelly is a traditional accompaniment to game and venison.

Rowan berries can also be dried and used as a flour mixed with cereals.

The leaves and flowers have been used as a tea substitute. Both the flowers and the fruit are mildly diuretic and laxative.

An infusion is used in the treatment of painful menstruation, constipation and kidney disorders.

PLEASE NOTE : The seeds also contain cyanogenic glycosides which, in reaction with water, produce the extremely toxic prussic acid. In small quantities this acts as a stimulant to the respiratory system but in larger doses can cause respiratory failure and death. It is therefore best to remove the seeds when using the fruit medicinally or as a food.


Any uses for trees or tree extracts, whether edible or medicinal, have not been tried or tested by EFORESTS.

Please take caution and seek proper advice before attempting any recipes or medicinal extracts from any of the trees listed on our site.

Culture and Symbolism

Rowan is an interesting name. It reflects Norse legends and superstitions about the tree. The old Norse name "runa" means a charm. Runa was the Sanskrit appellation to a magician.

The rowan's Anglo-Saxon name, cvicbeam, meaning "life tree", is related to "quilkening". This was a tradition known throughout Europe, in which livestock were gently beaten with a soft rod of rowan (or sometimes of hazel willow)

In Wales rowan was occasionally called Fraxinus Cambro-Britannica because of its reputed powers to resist evil spirits.

In the Irish legend of Diarmuid and Grainne, the fleeing lovers find shelter in a wonderful quicken-tree, which was also referred to as the "beautiful Druid tree", that had grown from a "berry of the Land of the Ever-Living Ones" (the elves).

The rowan's legendary ability to restore youth to old people clearly identifies it as yet another example of the archetypal Tree of Life.

The Rowan tree (also called 'Witchwood') is long known for aid and protection against enchantment.

It is also associated with divination, astral work, strength, protection, initiation, healing, psychic energies, working with spirits of the dead, psychic powers, personal power, and success.

Sticks of the Rowan were used to carve Runes on. It was also used in the art of metal divining. Rowan spays and crosses were placed over cattle in pens and over homes for protection.

The berries have a tiny pentagram on them. The pentagram is the ancient symbol of protection. The Rowan tree indicates protection and control of the senses from enchantment and beguiling.

The Rowan tree was sacred to the Druids and the Goddess Brigit. It is a very magical tree used for wands, rods, amulets and spells.

A forked Rowan branch can help find water. Wands are for knowledge, locating metal and general divination.

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