Rowan

rowan tree

The mystical, distinctive rowan tree is found higher up in the mountains than any other native tree. Its botanical name is Sorbus aucuparia and it’s often called the ‘mountain ash’, although has no relation to the ash tree.

In the past, superstitious residents planted rowan trees outside houses and in churchyards to ward off witches. And more recently, this favourable tree came second to the Scots pine in the running for Scotland’s national tree.

botanical drawings of rowan tree

Facts about the rowan

Uses: Its strong flexible wood was used for making tool handles and sometimes for longbows. The rowan’s red berries have a high vitamin C content and were made into a drink to combat scurvy. They are still used today to make a jelly to accompany meats.
Flowers: The rowan has flat heads of cream coloured, heavily scented flowers.
Fruit: The berries ripen to red and provide good autumn feeding for many birds, especially migrants from Scandinavia.
Leaves: The compound pinnate leaf usually has 11–15 toothed leaflets which turn red during the autumn months.
Bark: Its bark is smooth and a purplish or grey-brown.
Height: The rowan is a graceful narrow tree, that grows up to 15 metres tall.
Supporting insect species: 58
Lifespan: 120 years
Natural range: northern Europe

The loneliest tree in Scotland

A solitary rowan tree stands defiant on the windswept Rannoch Moor, just visible from the busy A82 between Glen Coe and Bridge of Orchy. Its roots cling to a lichen-encrusted giant boulder and its weathered crown testify to its resilience against harsh conditions. Experts believe the survival of this specimen is due to its elevated position - beyond the reach of hungry sheep and deer.