Rowan- Tree of wild magic
A bird flies over a steep mountainside and drops a Rowan seed that lands in a rock crevice which sprouts and gives life to a tree with creamy white clusters of flowers and bright red berries. Aptly named mountain ash the rowan is the tree that grows higher up a mountainside than any other native tree. It is not related to ash but shares the same feather-like leaves created by numerous leaflets on the same stalk.
Various insects feed on its flowers and song birds including thrushes, redwings and fieldfares flock to feast on its berries. The Rowan truly is a delight of the eye and a tree worth exploring.
The native Rowan is a tree of the wild uninhabited cold places of Britain. It grows on the windswept cliffs of the river Wye and Scotland producing scarlet red berries which birds gorge upon, and beautiful white flowers which insects feed from.
In old stories it is guarded by giants and offers a bridge to the land of promise and eternal youth to one who dares approach it. For the Rowan stands as a threshold guardian, afeared by those with a tainted heart, the paramount tree of the Druids, Witches and Magicians, a protector of the green world whose use can bring joy or sorrow depending on who implements its magic!
The Sorbus family to which rowan belongs is both fascinating and beautiful just like its stories of magic. You can see how it stands as a guardian, almost like a beacon of hope out on those unforgiving landscapes offering flower, fruit and shelter where there is little on offer. A very different species from the cultivated tree often seen in parks, roundabouts or roadsides.
Its family include Britain’s rarest tree, the True Service Tree or Whitty Pear ( S.domestica) and the Wild Service (S.torminalis) which has more maple-like leaves and small pear-like fruits. In addition to these species there are up to 18 rare or endemic species of Whitebeam (S.aria) specific to a range of places from Devon to the Wye valley and the Isle of Arran to Wales and Ireland.
The Uses of Rowan
This tree is a delight to those who have a love of nature and magic, and its wood and berries are considered to be protective and lucky charms.
Rowan wood has a yellow tinge and is strong and flexible.
Traditionally it was used to make tool handles and for smaller carved items. It is possible that like Whitebeam it was also used to make bows.
Medicinally rowan bark is used for treating diarrhoea and its berries for sore throats.
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Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.