The Mountain Ash or Rowan tree is a popular ornamental tree with a long history and many attached legends. It was strongly associated with witch craft and the occult; considered magical by many cultures. Some traditions have evolved from the belief common among Celtic people (the 15th and 16th century) that the tree could offer protection. Necklaces of Rowan berries strung together with red thread were believed to ward off evil spirits. It became a symbol of paganism and the supernatural. To learn more about the legends associated with the Rowan tree, click here.
Besides magical properties, the Mountain Ash has many practical uses. In
North America, berries and bark were used by First Nations. The wood is easily bent and was used for canoe frames, snowshoes and bows. In addition, the berries and bark can be used to make a rich black dye; the berries, for brewing spirits. When cooked, Rowan berries are supposed to have a healing effect on digestion, the liver and the lung. Warning: berries must be cooked first before use. Recipes, click here.
Our Rowan tree or Mountain Ash (not a true Ash) is a striking deciduous tree, 20 feet high. Now, in late summer, it is covered with rich green feather-like foliage and clusters of vivid orange berries. In spring, the Mountain Ash was sprinkled with flat-topped clusters of tiny cream coloured flowers. Later in autumn, its leaves will turn a sunny gold before falling. It provides an ever changing visual treat with intriguing, lacy shade patterns. Even in winter, the smooth grey bark is striking against the snow cover.
Soon, when the berry clusters ripen and turn a red-orange, a flock of birds…perhaps cedar waxwings, or grackles, or grosbeaks will descend on our tree to feast their full and will strip it of its vibrant berries in one visit. I hope to capture that event with the camera.
Mountain Ash trees like to have sun and moist well-drained soil and do well planted at the higher end of a yard. Ours is midway up the edge of our steep driveway so there is slope enough to keep the excess moisture draining away.
The feasting birds will spread the Mountain Ash seeds in their droppings. Already, we have two small new trees sprouting at the edges of our property, more beauty, more colours and more magic!
If you click on the words in red, you will go to another website which will provide additional information.
All photos are mine.