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Mountain Ash or Rowan ... Sorbus aucuparia ... an Caorthann

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 5:38 pm    Post subject: Mountain Ash or Rowan ... Sorbus aucuparia ... an Caorthann Reply with quote

Mountain Ash or Rowan ... Sorbus aucuparia ... an Caorthann

If you have space for just one tree within your garden, then I would suggest you include our native Mountain Ash. It is the one native Irish tree, that when planted, will provide you with colour for three full seasons, each and every year.

. Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) stem, leaf, fruit and flower, photo / pic / image.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Subfamily: Maloideae
Genus: Sorbus
Subgenus: Sorbus
Species: Sorbus aucuparia

Chromosome number: 2n=34.

Other names and other colours.
When selecting your Mountain Ash, you may see it labelled with its Latin name Sorbus aucuparia or its many common names including, Rowan, Quicken or Roddin. However, the name Mountain ash seems to have stuck because of its leaves resemblance to the foliage of our common ash (Fraxinus excelsior).

Mountain Ash foliage consists of dark green compound leaves, composed of 7 to 13 individual leaflets. This foliage, feathery looking with edges that are serrated with small teeth, emerges fresh each spring to clothe the trees grey-brown, smooth and shiny bark. Before shedding in autumn, these leaves provide us with their seasonal colours of orange, red and brown.

Blooms, berries, birds.
From May to June, the Mountain Ash trees produce their summer clusters of creamy-white blooms, which on mature specimens can contain up to 250 flowers per cluster. The insects that pollinate these flowers do us a favour by fertilising them, which then enables the formation of berries, for even more autumn colour. September to October is when the bright red berries (8mm wide) are at their peak, only to be eventually stripped bare by the many woodland garden inhabitants, including thrushes and blackbirds.

The juice within the berries has a laxative effect, which is unfortunate for the birds, but fortunate for the continuation of the trees lineage, due to its seeds being dispersed far and wide. The berries came in very useful for our Irish ancestors who used them to dye cloth, make jellies and flavour the beverage mead. Other early Irish, the Celtic druids considered the Mountain Ash a lucky tree, its wood supposedly containing magical fire prevention properties when hung in house.

Rowans requirements.
In the wild, the Mountain Ash tree thrives in areas with plenty of sunshine, and on peaty acid soils with quick drainage. These are the ideal conditions you should provide your specimen with, if you wish it to grow, flower and fruit well within your site. Under these conditions, the Mountain Ash survives as a vigorous and hardy tree, growing up to 18 metres in height, with a possible lifespan of over a hundred years.

One impressive example of large Irish Sorbus aucuparia is to be found in Talbotstown, Co. Wicklow, it has grown to 11 metres tall with a trunk whose girth exceeds 3.68 metres. Of course, Mountain Ash will often grow much smaller, especially in the cutting cold of an exposed location, which it will tolerate quite well, albeit with reduced growth.

. Multistem mountain ash, photo / pic / image.

One way to a multi-stemmed tree.
On a recent trip out to Clifden, I spotted many examples of multi-stemmed Mountain Ash, which was more than likely a result of the young trees palatable foliage being grazed down by the local sheep, only to later produce multiple new shoots from the base. Tough as you like, these seemed to be growing away quite healthly after their harsh cutting back.

So, no matter whether it's a single stemmed or multi-stemmed Mountain Ash for you, it will be well worth your while growing it.

Growing information at a glance.
Expected height: 15m / Expected spread: 7m over 50 years
Grow in full sun or light shade
Tolerant of most soils but prefers a slightly acid soil.
Flowers white April to May, with red berries in September/October
Main pests are Aphids, Blister mite and Sawflies
Main diseases are Canker, Fireblight and Silver leaf.

Other interesting mountain ash facts.
It is estimated that the Rowan in Ireland provides support in the form of habitation and food for 28 different insect species.

Although the timber of the mountain ash is hard and dense, it rarely produces dimensions suitable for commercial sawing. That being said, it is an interesting looking wood, with a purpley-brown heartwood and a yellowy brown outer or sapwood.

An old term for the mountain ash tree was "fid na ndruad" or translated to "tree of the druids".

Mountain ash is more often found at higher elevations (often up to 900 metres) than any other of Ireland's native broadleaved trees.

During the famine the leaves of the tree were thought to have been eaten by the famished Irish, before that time the leaves would occasionally have been used as winter feed for cattle

Research more in your own time......

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- Tree book bargains-

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Also try here...... Best Tree Identification Books

Chart shows approximate distribution of the native tree within Ireland.

Back to native Irish trees.

Mountain Ash Images courtesy
Gil Wojciech, Polish Forest Research Institute, Poland
Zelimir Borzan, University of Zagreb, Croatia

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