Rowan Trees

In a time where we lived off the land, many cultures appreciated the fruit of the rowan tree it. Even though most of the species are in the Himalayans, early Europeans and early Americans both enjoyed their local fruits. These trees are small deciduous trees that only grow to 60 to 70 feet.

Small flowers grow on the rowan tree in the spring. The flowers have five petals and are always white.

However, the fruit varies in color from bright orange to white. Many plant the rowan for ornamental uses today. Not only are the berries enjoyed by humans, but these brightly colored berries are also adored by birds and small animals. Additionally, the lumber from the rowan tree has many uses, especially because of its dense structure.

Eating these berries raw will lead to some indigestion. Although, any preparation, such as cooking, or freezing, will remove the toxicity. Because these have such a long history, many cultures root mythology and folklore around them.

So How Many Kinds of Rowan Trees are There?

Botanists currently classify 55 species of trees as part of the rowan genus. The rowan tree genus is known as the Sorbus genus. Also, the genus is part of the Rosaceae family. Because of the historical place of these trees, it goes by many common names, all dependent on the culture they grew nearby. Some of these common names are:

  • Rowan
  • Mountain ash
  • Wicken tree
  • Bird catcher
  • Witchbane
  • Witchwood
  • Wiggin

Out of the 55 species in the genus, there are some that are more prominent than others. While they grow across the hemisphere, they are mostly located in Asia. In fact, this is a list of some of the more species:

  • Sorbus americana (American mountain-ash)
  • Sorbus commixta (Japanese rowan)
  • Sorbus glabrescens (White-fruited rowan)
  • Sorbus aucparia (European rowan)
  • Sorbus reducta (Dwarf rowan)

How Large Do Rowan Trees Grow?

Rowan trees are relatively small trees. Most often, rowan trees grow to 30 feet in height. However, some species grow as tall as 60 feet and the dwarf variants only grow to 2 feet. The spread of rowan trees is generally 15 to 25 feet. Although, that is obviously scaled down for the dwarf sizes.

What Does a Rowan Tree Look Like?

The leaves of the rowan grow alternately from each other. Typically, a small branch will grow 11 to 35 leaves. Also, the leaves are oval and elongated. The end of the branches always sports a terminal leaf. They are dark green on top and a lighter green on the bottom. In the autumn, the leaves will turn yellow or red before they fall to the ground.

When in bloom, the flowers appear in large clusters. All in all, the flowers vary in color based on species. The flowers always have five petals and are white. You will usually see the flowers from May to June.

Rowans produce juicy and soft berries. The colors the fruits may appear:

  • - Bright orange
  • - Red
  • - Pink
  • - Yellow
  • - White
Rowan Berries

The bark you see will be smooth and grey while the wood is pale brown. Overall, the rowan tree needs to be pruned to grow as a single trunk. Otherwise, it takes on a bush like shape with many trunks.

Where Can I Find a Rowan Tree?

Rowan trees grow across the Northern Hemisphere, but they prefer cooler climates. Originally, the rowan is native to Asia, Europe, and North America. The cool climates of high-altitude areas are the perfect location for this tree.

In the mountainous areas of Northern Europe, the rowan thrives. Particularly in Scotland, the rowan trees are highly abundant. However, Finland also has a significant population of trees. The entirety of Europe claims some species of rowan trees. From Iceland and Russia to Spain and Italy, rowan are everywhere. Not only are they growing in the wild, but they are planted as ornamental pieces as well.

In the United States, the rowan is native to eastern North America. However, some states consider the rowan an invasive species.

Not only do rowans grow in Europe, but some species stretch into Northern Africa as well.

Finally, the biggest variety of species grows in Asia. China, Japan, and the Himalayas have significant populations.

How Long Can a Rowan Tree Live?

The rowan tree lives for 200 years. Although, the oldest tree in Europe is only 107 years old. They usually grow around a foot a year.

Can I Grow a Rowan Tree?

You can start your tree from the seeds of the berries. Next, the berries will need pre-treatment to extract the seeds from the berry. Sometimes, it is difficult to extract them because the berries are so juicy and fleshy.

In the right conditions, rowan trees are easy to grow. Rowan trees prefer full or partial sun. They grow best in well-drained soil but need ample watering for the first couple of years. All in all, it is best to plant the sapling in the winter between November and March.

The sapling will need a stake for the first two years to grow properly. Many people plant the rowan along the border of the property or garden.

It is Time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • Rowan trees were known to ward off witches and considered bad luck to cut down.
  • These trees are called “bird-catchers” because songbirds love the berries so much.

What Are Some Uses For Rowan Trees?

Natural Uses

Using rowan berries goes deep back into our history. We easily turn the berries into juice. Generally speaking, the juice is used for sore throats, asthma, and condition. For many cultures, they know the rowan tree as the tree of life.

The berries are truly a super food. While some caution needs to be taken when consuming them raw because of toxicity, the berry is completely full of great nutrients. Vitamin C, beta C, and antioxidants are all at high levels in this berry.

Cultures turn the berries into teas, alcohols, and even soap. Some believe that these little berries even fight cancer. We even known Rowan berries to reduce constipation, IBS, and diabetes.

The wood is strong and dense. Additionally, it was easy to fashion walking sticks out of it. You can use both the bark and berries to make colorful dyes.

The rowan is known as the bird catcher because it attracts so many birds. Nowadays, bird watchers stake out the rowans to see these beautiful birds. However, there was a time that those hungry and in the wild waited near rowan trees to catch a meal.

Artistic Uses

Most cultures associate the rowan with witchcraft. In fact, cutting one down brought bad luck.

The Norse hold the tree in high regard. This is likely because the rowan tree saved Thor when he was in a fast-moving river.

Finally, the theme of protection is carried through almost all cultures regarding the rowan. Also, many still carry around rowan branches as protection and good luck. It is common to plant a rowan tree near your house to protect the house.

With so much history in one tree, there are countless songs, books, and artwork using the rowan tree. It has a striking flower and berry that makes it the perfect artistic choice.

Residential/Commercial Uses

Arborists plant rowan trees are the perfect choice for ornamental planting. The flowers create a beautiful sight in the spring and the berries add a wonderful color in the fall.

The dense and strong wood is perfect for tool handles and spinning wheels. Crafters seek rowan wood because it is so easy to turn and shape.

Over the centuries, rowan wood made great longbows. Also, the Finnish use the wood for the shafts of horse sleds.

Wrap Up

The rowan tree is a small tree with many wonderful uses. We use the berries for dyes and to consume. The berries are best consumed prepared. Ultimately, there is some toxicity to the berries if they are not frozen or cooked. While many of the trees grow to 40 to 50 feet, some are only 2 feet tall.

Proper pruning is mandatory to keep the rowan to a single trunk. Naturally, these trees want to spread with many stems. The flowers are always white, but the berries develop into many colors. The cooler, mountainous areas of the Northern Hemisphere are the ideal growing areas for the rowan tree. Finally, the Himalayan mountains are home to the most rowan species. It is the ideal growing range. If you plan to grow one of these in your yard, you will want to give it ample space. However, you do not need to worry too much because these trees will only grow to a canopy spread of 25 feet at most.

The rowan is an ancient tree. We have a long history with this tree from medicinal purposes to using it to protect against witchcraft. Many planted rowan trees near their houses for protection.

Finally, this is an easy to grow a tree that adds beauty to your yard. With the proper soil and sun, the rowan will thrive.

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