Bane of witches, diviner of the future and producer of jam, Rowan is an elegant tree with a mystical history. Its leaves and berries are a favourite for wildlife in woods and towns alike. Rowan is also known as the Mountain Ash due to the fact that it grows well at high altitudes and its leaves are similar to those of the Ash tree.
Mature trees can grow to 15m in height and can live for up to 200 years. The bark is smooth and silvery grey, and leaf buds are purple and hairy. Flowers are borne in dense clusters, each one bearing five creamy-white petals. After successful pollination by insects, the flowers develop into well recognised, bright scarlet berries. Rowan berries are edible to humans – they are sour but rich in vitamin C, and can be used to make a tart jam.
Rowan was once widely planted by houses as a protection against witches. The colour red was considered to be the best colour for fighting evil, and so the rowan’s bright red berries have been associated with magic and witches.