Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash

Sorbus americana Marshall

Description

Mountain ash, also called American rowan, belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae) as opposed to the olive family to  which true ash belongs. 5   It is a small tree that grows to 30 feet.  The bark is smooth and gray, but becomes scaly with age. 5 It has pinnate leaves with 9 to 17 leaflets, each 2 to 4 inches long and serrated. ¹  Flowers are in dense, 6- inch terminal clusters.  Each flower is small and white. ¹  Fruits are bright red berries that remain on the tree into winter. ¹

American Mountain Ash in Allegany Co., Maryland (6/11/2014).

Leaves and flowers of mountain ash.  Maryland Biodiversity Project, J. Stasz ³

Fruits of mountain ash.  aMaryland Biodiversity Project, J. Stasz ³

Distribution

Mountain ash is distributed from Newfoundland, Canada to Minnesota and south through New England and along the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia.  In Maryland it is found exclusively in Allegeny and Garrett counties and is listed on the watch list (S3). ³

Native distribution of mountain ash.  Wikimedia commons 4

Wildlife Importance

Mountain ash is a host species to the American Dagger Moth. ³  Its fruits are eaten by numerous birds and animals and it provides browse for white tailed deer and moose. ¹

Economic Importance

Mountain ash berries are used in products such as marmalade, juices, and tea mixtures. ²  Medicinally, mountain ash is taken for diabetes, gout, and heart disease, although there is no scientific evidence for its efficacy. ²

Threats

Mountain ash is a short lived species and significant problems arise from bacterial fireblight and scab. ¹

Interesting Facts

  1.  From the Old World early settlers thought the American mountain ash had specials powers in exorcising witches. 6
  2. The bark of mountain ash was used by early American doctors because it resembled the Quinine tree. 6

References

  1. North Carolina Extension:  Sorbs americana
  2. WebMD:  Mountain ash–uses, side effects and more
  3. Maryland Biodiversity Project:  American mountain ash
  4. Wikimedia commons:  Sorbus americana
  5. Missouri Botanic Garden:  Sorbus americana
  6. Nazarene College:  American mountain ash

Contributed by J. Hull

Towson University Glen Arboretum

Towson University

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