Common Name: Mountain Ash, Rowan Tree (from Scandinavian word for Red)

Scientific Name: Sorbus Americana; Family: Rosaceae (Rose)


A small shrub or tree commonly found adjacent to rock outcroppings at elevations above 2000 feet easily identifiable by its pinnate (from Latin pinna meaning feather which refers to the leaflets on either side of a main stem axis) leaves and bright red berries.


Potpourri:   The Mountain Ash is not related to the ash trees (which are members of the olive family) but was so named because it has the pinnate leaf structure that is a characteristic of the ashes.  It is actually a member of the Rose family and is closely related to pears and apples (the berries look like little apples).


The fruit of the Mountain Ash is only produced at three year intervals and is low in lipid (fat) content.  Consequently, migratory birds that depend on high fat content to provide the energy for long distance flight generally pass them up.   Mountain Ash berries therefore typically persist well into winter, when they become a food source for non-migratory birds such as the grouse and herbivores such as deer and moose.


The berries become palatable in winter after at least one freezing and can be easily stripped from the twigs.  They make an excellent jelly. A decoction of the bark has been used as a tonic for fevers and as an antidote for diarrhea.  The Welsh brewed ale from the berries of the closely related European Mountain Ash (Sorbus Aucuparia).

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