Rowan trees are fairly common throughout Exeter and are often planted in parks, gardens or as street trees. As a native species of the UK the provide a great amount of benefit for our wildlife. Rowan is one of the few trees that can grow and thrive in high altitudes which is why they do well in the Scottish Highlands. Unlike some other native trees species such as Common Ash, Common Beech or English Oak the Rowan tree does not grow to huge sizes. Typically a Rowan tree will grow up to 15m and survive up to 200 years and can tolerate air pollution so also makes a nice street tree.
The bark of Rowan is fairly smooth and grey and as they mature are often covered by Compass lichen. The buds are a good side making it easier to identify during the winter. They are typically egg shaped and are covered in a dense brown hair. The buds are arranged alternately on the twigs.
The leaves look a little bit like those of Common ash so can sometimes be confused with this. The leaves are arranged alternately although you have to look very closely as at a quick glance they do look to be opposite. The leaves are pinnate and there are usually 5 - 8 pairs of leaflets along with a a terminal leaflet at the end. The length of each leaflet can vary in size - anything from 2 cm to 6 cm typically. The leaflets are long, oval shaped and toothed. The width of each leaflet is usually 1 cm to 2.5 cm.
The flowers are creamy white and in clusters
The berries and are usually red but orange varieties also exist
The flowers really stand out in May and can transform any boring street into a display of colour. The flowers are hermaphrodite which means each flower contains both male and female reproductive parts. The Flowers are borne in dense clusters called corymbs. Each individual flower is creamy white and is 5–10 mm across with five petals. The flowers attract a wide variety of pollinating insects particularly hover flies.
The flowers change into small green berries during June and mature into red / orange berries by July. The brightly coloured fruit remains on the tree throughout the summer and are usually eaten by birds in the autumn and winter. Although I have seen occasions where the fruit has remained untouched and they end up being shrivelled and black looking. The seeds are dispersed by birds mainly so the child trees can end up a fair distance from the parent tree. The fruit is edible but contains parasorbic acid when eaten raw which is toxic and causes indigestion and can lead to kidney damage. Cooking the fruit with heat will turn the parasorbic acid into sorbic acid which is harmless to Humans. Once safe to eat it can be used to make jams and jellies.
OTHER USEFUL LINKS
- They can live for up to 200 years in the wild
- They are a highland species and are quite happy at high altitudes
- They can tolerate air pollution and are suitable as street trees
- As they are quite small and can only grow up to 15m they are great for small gardens
- The flowers are hermaphrodite which means each flower contains both male and female reproductive parts
- The fruit is a cluster of red / orange berries and eaten mainly by birds
- The seeds are dispersed by birds and are a favourite of waxwings
- The fruit contains parasorbic acid when eaten raw
- The parasorbic acid can be converted into sorbic acid via cooking with heat or bletting
- The fruit contains high amount of vitamin C
- The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of a number of moths, including the larger Welsh wave and autumn green carpet
- Caterpillars of the apple fruit moth feed on the berries
- Its old Celtic name, 'fid na ndruad', means wizards' tree
- Rowan was once widely planted by houses as a protection against witches
- Cutting down a rowan was considered taboo in Scotland
- The colour red was considered to be the best colour for fighting evil
- The rowan’s bright red berries have been associated with magic and witches
- In Ireland it was planted near houses to protect them against spirits
- In Wales rowan trees were planted in churchyards
- The wood was used for stirring milk to prevent the milk curdling
- It was also used to make divining rods
- In the past the wood was used as pocket charm against rheumatism
- The wood is sometimes used in turnery, furniture, craftwork and engraving
- The wood is pale yellow-brown with a deeper-brown heartwood
- It is strong, hard and tough, but not particularly durable
- It is also know as the mountain ash as it looks similar to Common ash but is found in the highland areas
PLEASE LEAF ME ANY FEEDBACK / COMMENTS
If there is anything out of place or wrong please contact me. Equally if there is anything you wish to add please let me know. The more information we have about Rowan the better. Many thanks!