Growing in all of the four seasons of northern climates, the small, deciduous rowan tree is also known as the European Mountainash, the Ashbury and the Quicken tree. A member of the rRose family (Rosaceae), the Botanical name is Sorbus aucuparia. Native to Europe, Siberia and western Asia, the word "rowan" is a Scandinavian word meaning "red."
Low-branched and oval-shaped, or vase-shaped at maturity, the ornamental rowan tree is multi-stemmed with a smooth, shiny grey brown bark. The flowers are small and creamy white with green leaves that change colours in the fall to yellow, orange and red. A full-grown tree can range between 6 to 12 m (20 to 40 feet) in height with a 4.5 to 7.5 m (15 to 25 foot) spread.
The shiny, orange-red berries are high in vitamin C and ripen in late summer or early fall. The berries are bitter and are most often used to make juices, country wines, teas, syrups, jellies, preserves, jams and pie fillings. Medicinally, the berries are used to soothe sore throats, as a laxative and as an astringent. Wood from the rowan tree is used to make tool handles and timber.
Growing at a medium rate, the rowan tree can live for more than 100 years. The fruit and flowers of the rowan tree will provide food for 15 species of songbirds (particularly the waxwings and grobeaks), as well as rabbits and deer. The fruit will ripen in late summer or early fall.
In full sun and with an acidic, well-drained, loamy soil, the rowan tree can be expected to grow well even in the coldest regions of the UK.
Alkaline and compacted soils should be avoided, as well as high summer heat and a polluted environment. The rowan tree is sensitive to different types of disease and insect problems and should be kept free of stress. The tree requires pruning to ensure that is has a strong branch structure.
According to Druidry.org, there is much folklore about the rowan tree. In Scottish folk tradition, the Rowan tree is considered one of the most sacred. Wood from the tree was used to make protective amulets, charms, walking canes, as well as magic wands. Additionally, the Rowan tree was also known as the Witch tree and the Wicken tree and could be used to divine precious metals.