Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

The Sorbo

The rowan, common name for sorbus, belonging to the Rosaceae family, is a medium-sized tree native to northern Europe and spread spontaneously in our country. The sorbus genus features white flowers in clusters as well as bunched berries with bright hues from red, orange, yellow and brown, each containing multiple seeds. The liveliness of its colors is one of the beauty traits that most distinguishes it, together with the suggestive designs created by the leaves, especially in the autumn season.

The rowan, it has been said, has medium size: it can reach 8 or 9 meters in height and has a crown that with its embrace can expand up to 5 meters in diameter. This has a columnar shape, is light and soon takes its final umbrella shape. Its bark has a gray color tending to silver and with the passing of the years it has more and more cracks.

From the ornamental point of view, the rowan it is a very elegant tree, almost sober in appearance. Its appearance makes it appreciable both during autumn, when it has a large number of small bright red apples, and in spring, when it is in full bloom.

Leaves, flowers and fruits

The rowan has a leaf composed of 4 to 9 pairs of small leaflets, with an oval-shaped terminal. Each of these has a serrated edge which gives the whole foliage a suggestive "feathered" appearance. The tree blooms in May. Usually in July, however, the rowan it boasts a notable presence of berries that resist until the end of autumn and are particularly appreciated by birds. The berries, its fruits, are small and have the shape of a globose yellow pommel which then tends to a bright red. Finally, the flowers are white and collected in small groups.


Cultivation takes place by sowing, during the autumn. The seeds must be planted in pots filled with the appropriate compost. These must then be kept in the open air and subsequently, with the arrival of autumn, the very young specimens must be transplanted into the nursery, where they must remain for at least two years.


The rowan prefers full sun locations. However, it is very tolerant even at different temperatures, since it can also be found at 1500 meters above sea level, on Alpine reliefs. Equally it grows easily in urban gardens, tolerating even the summer heat with a good degree.

It also has resistance to city pollution and salty winds.


The tolerance of the rowan also extends to the soil of its growth. The tree does not in fact have excessive demands, thanks to its rusticity. However, its preference is given to loose and medium-textured soils, not very humid. It is advisable to plant the rowan trees in fresh soils with a good slope.


If in kind the rowan it occurs in small groups or isolated, in gardens and urban parks it has a widespread use for ornamental purposes, even in urban green areas. Its strong resistance to atmospheric pollution allows it to be often used for trees but also for green spaces adjacent to industrial areas. In mountain areas, however, it is widely used in order to give liveliness and joy to the streets or squares and is often associated, for this purpose, with laburnum or other mountain species such as pinus sylvestris and larches.


Like other trees of the rosaceae family, the rowan fears parasitic fungi of the genus Nectria. These cause even lethal damage to the tree, with canker of branches and stems and dryness throughout the plant.


A curious detail concerning the rowan is its close relationship, in ancient times, with magic, especially in the Nordic countries. For example, the name of the tree in Norwegian "ron" is also the root of the term "rune", since the ancient runic alphabet was carved on the wood of this tree. In Scotland, however, the rowan trees were usually planted around the various fields because the belief was that this tree kept evil away. So even today, in order to find ancient agricultural estates in Scotland that have fallen into ruin or disappeared, one looks for the surviving rowan trees and not far from them it is very likely to find remains of old settlements.

Other species

The most common species of the rowan are: the sorbus aria, which reaches 15 meters in height and has leaves with toothed edges, about 12 centimeters long, and cream-colored flowers. Very appreciated for its ornamental value, it often forms also windbreak barriers. The sorbus aucuparia, or rowan of the fowlers, about 18 meters high and provided with pinnate leaves with shades of gold and orange. The berries of the genus "edulis" of this secie are edible and often used for the preparation of preserves. The sorbus cuspidata, up to 20 meters high, with elliptical leaves of gray-green color and white flowers with a diameter of 10 centimeters that appear at the end of spring and large berries. The sorbus domestica, up to 25 meters high, with pinnate leaves, white flowers collected in panicles and edible green berries not particularly appreciated for their flavor. Finally, the sorbus torminalis, up to 25 centimeters high, with dark green lobed leaves and white flowers in bunches in spring and berries close to brown in autumn. It is aesthetically appreciated in the meadows or at the edge of the woods.

Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

The Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, is a tree grown in gardens for ornamental purposes due to the beauty of its bright red berries which migratory birds are greedy for.


It is generally rare, listed as an endangered species in Switzerland and Austria, and uncommon in Spain. [4] In the UK, one very old tree that existed in the Wyre Forest before being destroyed by fire in 1862 used to be considered native, but it is now generally considered to be more likely of cultivated origin, probably from a mediaeval monastery orchard planting. [7] More recently, a small population of genuinely wild specimens was found growing as stunted shrubs on cliffs in south Wales (Glamorgan) and nearby southwest England (Gloucestershire). [7] [8] It is a very rare species in Britain, occurring at only a handful of sites. Its largest English population is within the Horseshoe Bend Site of Special Scientific Interest at Shirehampton, near Bristol.

A further population has been discovered growing wild in Cornwall on a cliff in the upper Camel Estuary. [9]

It is a long-lived tree, with ages of 300–400 years estimated for some in Britain. [7]

The largest and perhaps one of the oldest known specimens in Europe is on an educational trail near the town of Strážnice in the province of Moravia, Czech Republic. Its trunk measures 462 centimeters (15.16 ft) in circumference, with a crown 11 meters (36 ft) high and 18 meters (59 ft) across. It is estimated to be around 450 years old. [10]

The fruit is a component of a cider-like drink which is still made in parts of Europe. Picked straight off the tree, it is highly astringent and gritty [11] however, when left to blet (overripen) it sweetens and becomes pleasant to eat. [4] [12] In the Moravian Slovakia region of the Czech Republic, there is a community run museum [13] with an educational trail and festival for this tree, with products like jam, juice and brandy made from its fruit. [14]

The sorb tree is cited in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ketubot page 79a. The example refers to a purchase of Abba Zardasa, in a translation by Rashi, an early Medieval scholar, as a forest of trees called Zardasa, that was used for lumber, because the fruit was not commercially important. The Aramaic word 'zardasa' may be the origin of the English word 'sorb'.

In Ancient Greece the fruit was cut in half and pickled, which Plato in the Symposium (190d7-8) lets Aristophanes use as a metaphor for the cutting in half of the original spherical humans by Zeus. [15]

Service Tree wood was often used for manufacturing wooden planes of all types used for working wood, because Service Tree wood is fairly dense and holds a profile well. [16] [17]

Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia

There Sorbus aucuparia it is of arboreal type, it belongs to the Rosaceae family. It is also called by the common name of Rowan of the fowlers. The dimensions of the plant can be quite large with a height between 5 and 7 meters, the expansion instead is between 4 and 8 meters. For the plant to reach its maximum development it takes about 20-50 years. Usually S. aucuparia it is also referred to by the name of Sorbus rehderiana. The leaves of this species are deciduous. Cultivation can take place in: informal garden, gravel garden, Mediterranean garden, pot or container, architectural garden, terrace or courtyard, rock garden, lawn or open field, flower garden, country garden, coastal garden, sub-tropical garden .

Sorbus aucuparia

The rowan or mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia L.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Rosaceae family.

Systematic -
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, Kingdom Plantae, Subarranean Tracheobionta, Superdivision Spermatophyta, Division Magnoliophyta, Class Magnoliopsida, Sottoclasse Rosidae, Order Rosales, Family Rosaceae and then to the Genus Sorbus and to the Specie S. aucuparia.

Etymology -
The term Sorbus derives directly from sorbus, the name of the rowan in Pliny and Columella, derived from sórbeo sorbire, perhaps referring to the ripe and soft fruit from which to sip the fermented juice. The specific aucuparia epithet comes from avis bird and capio catch, capture: the fruits of these plants are appetites of small migratory birds and for this they are planted in fixed stalking for hunting and used as bait in panie and arches.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat -
The mountain ash is a plant native to the central-northern part of Europe, from Iceland to Russia, and the mountains of the south. It grows at altitudes between 600 and 2,100 meters. In Italy it is present in all regions, from the alpine areas to Sicily and Sardinia. It grows in woods (especially beech and fir woods) and in the rhododendron bushes of the Alps, with optimum in the mountain and subalpine ranges.

Description -
The Sorbus aucuparia is a small tree that can reach 15 meters in height, with a light, expanded-umbrella-shaped foliage. It presents a trunk with silver gray rind, with linear lenticels that tend to flow with age, causing a greater roughness. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, composed of 6 0 7 pairs of lateral segments plus one apical, lanceolate and about 5 cm long, covered by sparse pubescence on the lower page the margin is serrated. The flowers are gathered in upright corymbs, about 15 cm in diameter, with round, white and yellow stamens. The anthesis is in the final period of spring. The fruits are small subglobose pomes of 6-11 mm of diameter, of red or orange-red color, with homogeneous flesh with few sclereids and 1-6 seeds of 3-6 x 1, 5-3 mm with elliptical section, smooth, bright, orange.

Cultivation -
The Rowan to be cultivated needs semi-shaded areas and cool places with not too high temperatures the soils must be acidic and well drained. Being a rustic plant does not need any particular water supply except in the first phase of planting, after which it is satisfied with rainwater. For a good growth of the plant it is advisable to 'plant to put in good a good amount of mature manure mixed to the same substrate extracted from the hole. The rowan of the birds, like the rowan, reproduces by seed or by semi-woody cutting. The seeds extracted from the berries in winter should be kept in cool and dry places until spring. As for adversities and diseases, Sorbus aucuparia is a very resistant plant only in case of excessively humid climate can powdery mildew.

Uses and Traditions -
The mountain ash is a European distribution tree present in all the regions of Italy, with three subspecies: Sorbus aucuparia L. subsp. Aucuparia, Sorbus aucuparia subsp. glabrata (Wimm. & Grab.) Hedl. and Sorbus aucuparia subsp. praemorsa (Guss.) Nyman.This plant is often cultivated for ornamental purposes along the streets, especially in mountain areas. The fruits can be used in the preparation of jellies, jams and sauces, but can be toxic if eaten raw because the seeds contain amygdalin (cyanidric derivative). A black dye is obtained from young branches. The wood is precious, hard, compact and elastic, and is used for cabinet-making, sled construction, turning, carving it is also used for musical instruments (flutes) and in the furniture industry as fuel gives good firewood. was also planted to attract frugivorous birds that are very greedy of its berries.In the popular culture of Friuli, Cadore and Central European, the dried berries of rowan of the birds were used as a repellent for witches, werewolves and demons, and as an "Antidote" against malefics and spells. From the berries of the rowan of the birds a diffused food preservative with antifungal action is extracted: the sorbic acid, E200. Sorbyol can also be obtained from the rowan: a sweet-tasting polyol used as a sweetener (E420).

Preparation Mode -
The fruits of Sorbus aucuparia, can be toxic, especially if eaten in quantity, because the seeds inside, if ingested, contain the amygdalin which is a derivative of hydrocyanic acid. However, they can be used in the preparation of jellies, jams and sauces.

- Acta Plantarum - Flora of the Italian Regions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore- Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d 'Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.- Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia 'Aspleniifolia'

There Sorbus aucuparia 'Aspleniifolia' it is of the arboreal type, it is part of the Rosaceae family. It is also known by the common name of Rowan of the fowlers. The dimensions of the plant can be quite large with a height between 4 and 8 meters, while the width is between 5 and 8 meters. It takes more or less 20-50 years to grow and reach its maximum development. The cultivar has deciduous foliage. Cultivation can be done in: informal garden, gravel garden, Mediterranean garden, pot or container, architectural garden, terrace or courtyard, rock garden, lawn or open field, flower garden, country garden, coastal garden, sub-garden tropical.


The plant does not require particular climatic conditions to be cultivated. In addition to easily tolerating low temperatures during the winter season, it is not afraid of hot summers. Moreover, it adapts without particular problems to the various types of soil as long as the soil is well drained.

This plant requiresdirect exposure to light solar. Not being particularly demanding, it can also be grown in the garden or in a low maintenance orchard without taking too many risks.

It tends to be little subject to attacks by parasites so it does not require special treatments or interventions in this sense.

Other information

Also discover these articles on other plants, in particular on fruit trees, on gardening techniques and on diseases and pests, and many little secrets to have a fantastic garden:

  • Garden trees: what are they and how to best treat them?
  • Multiplication techniques some plants
  • Insects 'friends' of plants: how to attract them
  • Plant rust: how to eliminate it naturally
  • Magnolia: all about this tree with unmistakable abundant blooms
  • Mahonia: care and cultivation of this evergreen plant
  • Poplar: varieties and characteristics of a fast-growing tree
  • Oak tree, a majestic tree suitable for marking the avenues

Video: Tree ID: Common Rowan Sorbus aucuparia