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Sorbus Aucuparia (also known as the Rowan Tree or the European Mountain Ash) - Why Every Garden should Grow One

Updated on March 13, 2012
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) | Source

Sorbus Aucuparia is also known by its more common names, the Rowan tree or European Mountain Ash.

This tree is found growing wild all over northern Europe as well as North America, and is known for its hardiness and ability to thrive even up near the top of high mountains.

It is a very attractive tree with bright green 7 or 8-lobed delicate-looking pinnate leaves and creamy-white blossom in summer, and is covered in glorious red berries in autumn.

While it can reach a maximum height of 12 metres (36'), most specimens sold for gardens only reach an average of 4 metres (12') which is perfect for most people's gardens or yards.

Tough as old boots despite it's delicate looks, mountain ash trees thrive even in smoky cities, making them an ideal choice for those who wish to bring a little bit of the countryside into town.

Where rowan trees grow, birds flock. The berries are irresistible to our feathered friends, and a single average size tree can feed a whole family of birds throughout the winter months.

The Rowan tree
The Rowan tree | Source

The Magical Powers of the Rowan Tree

No other tree is so entrenched in Celtic mythology as the Rowan tree, in all its variances.

Every home kept a Rowan tree near their door to ward off evil spirits, and their magical powers even extended to helping the weary traveller stay safe and find his way.

The wood from the branches of the rowan were used for making magic wands (move over Harry Potter!), as well as being crafted into walking sticks, water dowsing rods and druid staffs.

  • Such was their power that carrying staffs aboard ships made from the Rowan wood was a common event, to ward off storms and rough weather, always a danger to mariners.
  • Some Rowan wood would be kept inside houses to prevent lightening strikes. Norse mythology tells us that the Rowan tree itself was born a lightening bolt, at a time when all the Earth was barren.
  • Rowan trees planted on graves prevented zombies from coming back to life.
  • Dead bodies awaiting burial were placed under Rowan trees to keep evil spirits away from their souls.
  • The name 'Rowan' is thought to be derived from the word "rune", meaning magical.
  • Farm animals were protected from harm by twigs of Rowan being placed round their barns.
  • Women commonly wore necklaces or bracelets made from Rowan berries to keep them safe.
  • Religious crosses were carved from Rowan wood to keep the Devil away.
  • Those crosses were often placed over cradles to prevent babies being stolen away by faeries in the night.
  • Especially powerful are the Rowan trees grown from berries that take root where they fall, especially if those seedlings appear between the gnarled root forks of a mature tree like an elm or oak. Known as "flying Rowans", these young trees are still highly-sought after today for their enhanced magical powers.


Rowan berries showing their pentagram
Rowan berries showing their pentagram | Source

If you don't believe any of this could be true, just have a close look at a Rowan berry.

At the end opposite the stalk is a tiny 5-pointed star - a pentagram, the ancient symbol of protection.

Even today, the Rowan tree is considered all-powerful, and a positive influence on your life-force energy, should you be lucky enough to be near one.

Have I convinced you yet?

No other tree will bring such enrichment to your life, home and family, and everyone should have their own Rowan tree. There are many species in the genus,

Sorbus Aucuparia, the European mountain ash, is one. Sorbus Americana is another, and there are many more, all carrying the same amazing powers.

Even if you don't believe, it is true that a glut of Rowan berries on the trees in any one year is a warning of a severe winter to come.

The rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) in flower
The rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) in flower | Source

How to grow Sorbus Aucuparia, the Rowan or European mountain ash tree

Like all trees, Sorbus Aucuparia should be transplanted in winter when its leaves are gone and the tree is dormant.

They will tolerate all soil types and can grow in any position that offers either full sun or light shade.

Even when in full leaf in summer, the mountain ash itself only causes light shading to plants grown underneath its spreading branches.

This makes it a perfect choice for a small garden.

They can even be grown in tubs or containers, and are very easy to grow.

Being extremely hardy, they can tolerate the most unfavorable conditions, from high winds, ice and snow in winter through to hot, dry and arid summers.

If you should buy the Rowan seeds instead, place them in a sealed container in the bottom of your refrigerator to simulate winter, and plant them out into containers in the Fall, for new growth the following spring.

The Rowan tree is the perfect choice for everyone, especially for those of you with only room for just one tree.

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