Rowan (Mountain-ash)
(Sorbus aucuparia)

compound leaf

Winter twig
Winter twig



distribution map

The pinnate leaves are alternate, and have 6-8 pairs of single- or double-toothed, stalkless leaflets which are 3-6 cm long: the terminal leaflet is never larger than the rest. The leaflets are usually hairless, except beneath on the midrib, when young. The leaf-stalks are 2-4 cm long.

ID check

Rowan is a deciduous tree up to 20 m tall, pyramidal in outline, with a smooth, shiny, grey bark. It is found in woods, scrub and on mountains, on acid soils. It grows to almost 1000 m above sea level, higher than any other British tree.

The creamy-white 5-petalled flowers, 6-9 mm across, are arranged in flat, branched clusters about 10 cm wide.

The almost round, fleshy red berries, 6-9 mm long, are yellow at first, but red when ripe in September. Each has 1-2 seeds inside.

The leaves turn a vivid gold and red in autumn and often stay on the tree into November.


  • 'Rowan' is derived from a Norse word 'runa' meaning a charm. Therefore it was often planted outside houses, to ward off witches.

  • The berries make a fine jelly good to eat with game.

  • The berries are relished by larger birds in winter especially thrushes and their relatives.

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