Sorbus aucuparia, commonly called the rowan, is a deciduous tree with a history stretching back thousands of years across the northern hemisphere. In olden times the tree was planted outside homes to ward off witches and evil spirits, but today the rowan is commonly planted along streets and avenues for its aesthetic qualities but also because it’s a relatively low maintenance tree and only grows to around 15 metres. Rowans are happy in gardens, in the wild and especially at altitude where they flourish where others would not.
In your garden
The rowan’s yellow/white blossom can be seen in May and June and this turns into clumps red berries which are at their most ripe in late summer, early autumn. They are irresistible to over 60 species of birds (including the thrush and blackbird) and mammals (such as squirrels and dormice), but they are not digested and are passed in their droppings to aid in the widespread propagation of the new generation of rowan.
Threats your rowan may face
Insects don’t seem to like to eat the rowan tree’s leaves, but larvae from the leaf minor and several species of moth can cause damage. Some snails feed on the leaves and rust fungus can create raised discoloured spots called galls to form.
Rowans can also be blighted with silver leaf disease, which is a fungus that can infect the wood of the tree and kill it branch by branch after turning its leaves a silver grey-green. Apparently one of the most common causes of this disease is poor pruning as the larger (longer to heal) wounds left by an amateur ‘have-a-go’ tree surgeon are the perfect way in for the fungal spores. As the fungus produces the highest volume of its spores in the wintertime it’s best to prune infected trees in the summer, disinfecting your equipment as you go along to avoid the spread of this infection.
A few things you may not know about your rowan trees
- The wood from rowan trees is used by water diviners for their divining rods, supposedly with the power to locate water deep below the surface.
- Rowans have been found as far afield as Iceland, North Africa and China.
- The berries from the rowan tree have been used in folk medicines across Europe to treat colds and flus, rheumatism and infections.
- The fruits of the rowan tree are too bitter to be eaten raw, but contain lots of vitamin C, so after cooking or freezing they are debittered and can be used in jams, juices or jellies.
- The tree is known by many names, the wizard’s tree, the witch wiggin tree, the mountain ash and Thor’s protection, after a myth that by grabbing hold of a rowan Thor saved himself from being swept away by rapids.
If you would like help with the trees you have in your garden or to discuss the best way of maintaining them or treating any infections they may have, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice or assistance.