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The Rowan is the title of a novel by Anne McCaffrey. Rowan University is a university in New Jersey.


European Rowan fruit
Scientific classification
Genus: Sorbus
Subgenus: Sorbus
Sorbus subgenus Sorbus
Sorbus aucuparia - European rowan
Sorbus americana - American rowan
Sorbus cashmeriana - Kashmir rowan
Sorbus commixta - Japanese rowan
Sorbus decora - Showy rowan
Sorbus glabrescens - White-fruited rowan
Sorbus hupehensis - Hubei rowan
Sorbus sargentiana - Sargent's rowan
Sorbus scalaris - Ladder rowan
Sorbus vilmoriniana - Vilmorin's rowan
Plus several other species
'Sorbus subgenus Aria''
Sorbus Other subgenera

The rowans are plants of the Rosaceae family, in genus Sorbus, subgenus Sorbus. They are small deciduous trees with pinnate leaves, arranged alternately.

The best known species is European rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, a small tree typically 4-12 m tall growing in a variety of habitats throughout northern Europe and in mountains in southern Europe and southwest Asia. Its berries are a favourite food for many birds and are a traditional wild-collected food in Britain and Scandinavia. It is one of the hardiest European trees, occurring to 71 north in arctic Norway.

Besides Sorbus aucuparia, several other similar species from Asia in particular are widely cultivated as ornamental trees. See also the whitebeams (Sorbus subgenus Aria) and article on Sorbus genus for other Sorbus species.

Table of contents
1 The name
2 Uses
3 External links

The name

Etymologically, the name "rowan" stems from the word "Runall", which means "a charm" in the old Norse language and "magician" in Sanskrit.

English folk names

Rowan is one of the most familiar wild trees of England. One old name of the rowan, "mountain ash" seems to imply it is an "ash", although it does not belong to the Ash family, being closely related to the apples and hawthorns. This confusing name results from the superficial similarity in the leaf shape of the two trees.

The following list summarizes some known folk names of the rowan tree:


Rowans are excellent small ornamental trees for
parks, gardens and wildlife areas. Several of the Chinese species, such as White-fruited rowan (S. glabrescens) are popular for their unusual berry colour, and Sargent's rowan (S. sargentiana) for its exceptionally large clusters of fruit. They are very attractive to fruit-eating birds like thrushes and waxwings, which is reflected in the old name "bird catcher". The wood is dense and used for carving and turning and for tool handles and walking sticks. Rowan cultivars with superior fruit for human food use are available but not common. Mostly the fruits are gathered from wild trees growing on public lands.

Magical uses

The European rowan (S. aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings.

The density of the rowan wood makes it very usable for walking sticks and magician staffss that additionally carry protective qualities for safe night journeys. This is why druid staffs, for example, have traditionally been made out of rowan wood. The magic power that is ascribed to rowan extends beyond simple protection, for it is said that rowan wood will increase one's psychic powers, and its branches were often used in dowsing rods and magical wands.

Further, rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, kept in houses to guard against lightning, and even planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting. It is also used to protect one from witches or as wood to fuel the fire to burn witches (Frazer, p. 718). A rowan growing out of another rowan is called a "Flying Rowan" and is especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm against sorcery (Frazer, p. 813-814). Rowan protects against enchantment and is used to make rune staves (Murray, p. 26), for metal divining, and to protect cattle from harm by arraching sprigs to their sheds.

Leaves and berries are added to divination incense for better scrying.

Folk-medicinal uses

Fresh rowan berry juice is usable as a laxative, gargle for sore throats, inflamed tonsils, hoarseness, and as a source of vitamins A and C. Rowan berry jam will remedy diarrhea. An infusion of the berries will benefit hemorrhoids and strangury. The bark can also be used as an astringent for loose bowels and vaginal irritations. Rowan is also used for eye irritations, spasmic pains in the uterus, heart/bladder problems, neuralgia, gout, and waist constrictions.

Rowan berries as food

Rowan berries are usually too astringent to be palatable when raw. Rowan berries make an excellent slightly bitter-flavoured jelly. In England, this jelly is traditionally eaten with game meats. They can be a substitute for coffee beans. The fruits have many uses in alcoholic beverages: to flavor liqueurs and cordials, to produce country wine, and to flavor ale.

External links

Species profile: Rowan Mythology and Folklore of the Rowan The Rowan Tree by Amy Sjoquist [1]