T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Sorbus
Subgenus: Sorbus
Section: Sorbus
Species: S. aucuparia
Binomial name: Sorbus aucuparia
Common names: Rowan, European Rowan, Mountain ash. Quickbeam, European mountain ash.

Sorbus aucuparia is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree which is an exotic from Europe typically growing to 8–10 m tall, more rarely 20 m, and exceptionally to 28 m. The bark is smooth, silvery grey of young trees, becoming scaly pale grey-brown and occasionally fissured on old trees. The shoots are green and variably hairy at first, becoming grey-brown and hairless; the buds are conspicuous, purple-brown, and often densely hairy. 
The leaves are pinnate, 10–22 cm long and 6-12 cm broad, with 9–19 (most often 13–15) leaflets; each leaflet is 3–7 cm long and 15–23 mm broad, with a coarsely serrated margin; they are variably hairy, particularly the petiole and leaf veins on the underside. The leaves turn a yellow-rust colour in autumn.
It has clusters of white flowers in late spring. These hermaphrodite flowers are produced in large terminal corymbs 8–15 cm diameter with up to 250 flowers, the individual flowers 1 cm diameter, with five creamy-white petals, and are insect pollinated. 
After flowering masses of bright red or orange-red berries develop lasting through winter. The berry is a small pome (an accessory fruit composed of one or more carpels surrounded by accessory tissue.) 6–9 mm (rarely up to 14 mm) diameter, green at first, ripening bright red in late summer, and containing up to eight (most commonly two) small seeds. Its fruit are eaten by birds.
Though Sorbus is called Mountain ash is unrelated to the true Ash tree though the leaves are superficially similar.
Rowan is very tolerant of cold and is often found at high altitudes than other exotics trees.
The fruit, called rowan berries in culinary usage, are usually quite bitter, but are used to make jam or jelly, with a distinctive bitter flavour. Due to wide range of the European Rowan, its fruits are used in many national cuisines to add a distinctive sour/bitter flavour to dishes or drinks. Rowan jelly is a traditional accompaniment to game and venison.

Tree with orange fruit

A tree with red fruit


Photographed mid April in Otago and the fruit have started to dry out.