Rowan, Whitebeam and Mountain Ash are all part of the genus Sorbus. Rowans are deciduous trees with lovely dense corymbs of creamy white flowers in spring. The autumn berries can be white, pink or yellow but are most commonly red. The foliage can be dark green, silvery blue, red or orange. Native to the UK and Europe, when a wider variety of fruits were eaten, rowan berries were counted as one of the home fruits.
There are many different names for Rowan, including: witty tree which means witch’s tree as it was thought to ward off evil spirits; wayfarer’s tree and traveller’s tree as people believed rowan trees prevented travellers from becoming lost on their journey. The name Mountain Ash came to be as it grows well in the mountains, they’re actually the best trees in the country for growing at high altitudes and Ash because of the similarities of the leaves.
In mythology, the rowan tree saved the God Thor by reaching over a fast flowing river, in which he was being swept away, and bringing him back to the riverside.
Sorbus is derived from the Latin name for Sorbus domestica or the Service Tree as it is commonly known. The name aucuparia comes from the Greek for bird catcher, referring of course to the popular berries.
The berries are popular with chaffinches, siskins and blackbirds. Fieldfares and redwings actually plan their migration from Scandinavia to the UK to coincide with the berry production of Rowan trees. Once they have eaten the berries they disperse the seeds along their way, ensuring a new generation of young Rowan trees.
Ornamental Tree Nurseries have a wonderful choice of Rowan trees, including some more exotic varieties and different coloured berries for an alternative aesthetic.
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