The Mountain Ash Family

The Mountain Ash Family

Mountain ash trees (Sorbus species) have long been considered to have special properties. European mountain ashes are also known as rowan trees and were traditionally considered to have magical properties, including protection against evil beings. They were often used as druid staffs, and for dowsing rods. The bark and berries of American mountain ashes were used medicinally by many American Indian tribes.

Today, mountain ashes are considered to be excellent small or moderate sized ornamental trees due to their attractive form, prolific white flowers, and bright orange berries.They are not true ash trees, but are more closely related to the rose family.

The berries are edible, but generally too acidic for human consumption. However, they are sometimes used to make wines and are popular food sources for many bird and mammal species, including songbirds such as thrushes, waxwings, and jays, game birds such as grouse, wild turkey, and ptarmigans, and squirrels. Mountain ashes are also favored forage species for moose, elk, and whitetail deer.

Native American mountain ash species include:

  • American mountain ash (Sorbus americana)
  • California mountain ash (Sorbus californica)
  • Northern mountain ash (Sorbus decora)
  • Arizona mountain ash (Sorbus dumosa)
  • Greene’s mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina)
  • Western mountain ash (Sorbus sitchensis)

Mountain ashes tend to prefer cool, moist sites and full sunlight.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/question_everything/3897507269/