Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), also known as Mountain Ash, is very pretty native tree often planted in parks and on streets.
It 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 native to most of Europe, except for the far south, and northern Asia.
In woodlands it grows well in association with sessile oak.
Rowan is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree typically growing to 8 - 10 metres tall. Occasionally it will reach 20 - 28 metres.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mythology and symbolism
The name Rowan reflects Norse legends and superstitions about the tree. The old Norse name "runa" means a charm. Runa was the Sanskrit name for a magician.
In Wales rowan was occasionally called Fraxinus Cambro-Britannica because of its reputed powers to resist evil spirits.
DISCLAMER : Any uses for trees or tree extracts. whether edible or medicinal, have not been tried or tested by EFORESTS.CO.UK so please take caution and seek proper advice before attempting any recipes or medicinal extracts from any of the trees listed on our site.
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