November 21, 2010
Rowans have long been considered sacred, and the Celts called it 'the wizard's tree'. It grows in churchyards and is planted to protect homesteads. Cutting down a rowan has long been thought to bring bad luck. And it's not just us, here in the UK; the rowan is thought to have protective powers against evil spirits right across Europe. In Finland, this is said of it:
In the yard there grows a rowan.
Thou with reverent care should'st tend it.
Holy is the tree there growing.
Holy likewise are its branches.
On its boughs the leaves are holy.
And its berries yet more holy.
Also known as mountain ash, rowans will grow at higher altitudes than any other tree, sometimes as epiphyte, growing in the crevice of another tree. They are useful, with strong, durable wood and edible berries that are used to make rowan jelly. They make a fast-growing, compact and well-behaved street tree, too, with two seasons of interest (spring blossoms and autumn berries), and so are much planted in cities, where they nourishes the urban birds as they prepare for winter and, who knows, protect us city dwellers too.