Posted by: christinelaennec | September 13, 2011

The Rowan Tree

One of the most beautiful aspects of autumn in Scotland, for me, is the rowan tree.  Even before I was aware of the folklore attached to them, I loved their autumnal colours:

Rowan tree in Aberdeen, 12 September, 2011. This is about as sunny as it's been lately!

Rowan trees are said to be protectors against evil and enchantment.  I’ve heard that at one time – I’d be interested to know if this is still the case – every croft had a rowan tree for protection.  Even in the city, our garden has a rowan tree.

I’ve heard that people used to make syrups and wines from the rowan berries, and I’m sure some still do.  Here in Aberdeen, people notice how heavily laden the rowan trees are with berries, as it’s said to be an indicator of how severe the winter will be.  General consensus seems to be that we may be in for another hard winter this year.  People also notice how quickly their rowan trees are stripped by the birds:  if the tree is soon bare, perhaps you’d better stock up as well!

I’m aware that there are different kinds of rowan (known also as “mountain ash”) but I like their friendly presence as a group.  There’s a small rowan tree that I can see from my window and at this time of year it can be almost like a flame, so vividly orange.  I like to imagine that it knows me, as I know it.



  1. I wondered if you know the song about the Rowan Tree. We used to sing it round the piano when I was wee and went on holiday to the Black Isle. It’s a bit of a sad song and tune and always makes me want to greet.


  2. I’ve always loved those trees but never knew they were thought of as protectors against evil and enchantment. I’ve always considered trees as guardians anyway or as benevolent beings, not always nice. It’s interesting to know and lucky if you have one close by then!

  3. Berries of all sorts seem to be in great abundance around here just now. You could be right, maybe we should be bracing ourselves for another cold blast.

  4. There are lots of Rowan trees here too and they are laden with berries this year…I am sure this is a sign of another cold and long winter to come. x

  5. I know this stuff about it being a sign of a bad winter to come. But surely a heavy crop of berries says something about the spring and summer we’ve had, no?
    I agree they are a wonderful sight. The house I grew up in beside the Cromarty Firth had a rowan tree in the front garden, and my parents kept telling me that when I was a baby I was put out under it in my pram. Quite a different experience from that of my granddaughter Maeve, who has a baby-gym and is so hugely stimulated by colours and shapes and textures that she can reach. I suspect this is making her more physically active, while I was probably wrapped up tightly to keep me warm.

  6. My Mother used to say Rowans kept the witches away. But as I was already convinced by then that she was one I didnt believe it.

  7. I think the rowans this year have been beautiful and bursting with berries. Certainly here in the Highlands most crofts have a rowan planted in, or near the front garden; to keep the witches away I was told. I planted a rowan this summer, but it isn’t looking very healthy – I hope the witches don’t spot it!

  8. We have Rowan Trees here in Washington growing wild. I have one in my woodlands not far from the house. They are a little different than the cultivated ones, with delicate ferny leaves and much taller. There are also cultivated ones growing in the little town nearby. I have a library of fairy books and the Rowan tree is considered sacred by the fairies. It is bad luck to cut one down. We must have very similar climates, it seems, as we have many of the same plants. I hope it is true that they ward off evil spirits! xx

  9. We have a mountain ash outside our front window.
    We inherited it. This last Spring it has begun to grow a little unweildy and I know it’s probably too close to the house but I just can’t bring myself to chop it down 😦
    I only learned of the ancient protecting powers of rowans and mountain ash this Summer from my daughter.
    It certainly does have a protecting, soothing presence.
    I’m hoping that if I keep it pruned well it will be able to remain as our little front garden protector for years to come:)

  10. Beautiful tree…I love the “legacy” as well.

  11. Now this- red rowans against grey granite – is so absolutely central to my experience of student days in Aberdeen as to give me a stab of homesickness in my heart for past happiness.

  12. Dear All,

    I’m so glad you liked the rowan tree!

    Jean – I knew there was a song called the Rowan Tree, but I’ve never actually heard it sung. Surely there’s someone on YouTube to sing it to me. The words are very nostalgic!

    dapperdolly – yes, I think of trees as benevolent beings as well. I often wonder what they think of all our carry-on underneath them!

    Martin and Knitsister – time will tell!

    Flora – what a great story about you bundled outside under the rowan tree! Yes, there must be a connection between number of berries and preceding spring. Many people have commented on how plentiful the blossoms were after the last two harsh winters. Presumably more blossom = more berries?

    Jill – ha ha!

    Ann – I’m glad to hear the crofts still have their rowan tree. I hope yours picks up!

    Karen – yet another confirmation of the folklore. Yes, I think Aberdeen and the Northwest USA have a very similar climate. I believe you’ll have more rain than us, though.

    Suzy Q – oh yes, I hope you can keep it trimmed into shape, especially bearing in mind that Karen says it’s bad luck to cut one down!

    Dianne – glad you enjoyed it!

    Linda – well, I’m glad it was a good nostalgic pain! I hadn’t thought of it being the rowan against grey granite, but as you say, that is such a common sight here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: