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European mountain ash

European mountain ash produces orange-red clusters of fruit in late summer.

European mountain ash, or Rowan tree, is a small, 20 to 40 feet tall with white, flat-topped flowers, smooth gray bark, and clusters of bright red, persistent fruits. Native to cooler climates of Europe and Asia, often prone to many insect and disease problems when grown in warm climates. May be difficult to find in nursery trade.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Sorbus aucuparia

All Common Names:

European Mountain Ash, Rowan,Rowantree, Common Mountainash

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen,
  • Shade tree

Size Range:

  • Medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Open,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size & form

A small tree,  20 to 40 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide.
A short-lived tree, best grown in cool climates.

Tree & Plant Care

Plant in a cool moist location.  Does best in full sun but will tolerate some shade.
This tree prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soils.
May be difficult to find in nursery trade,

Disease, pests, and problems

Prone to many insect and disease problems
Borers and cankers are serious problems on stressed trees.

Native geographic location and habitat

 Native to northern Europe and Asia

Attracts birds & Butterflies

Flowers attract butterflies and fruit is a favorite of many bird species.

Bark color and texture 

Smooth gray bark with white streaks from lenticels. Older bark is slightly rough.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, pinnately compound  (9 to 15 leaflets), slightly serrated leaf margins.
Dull dark green above, paler beneath.  Yellow to reddish orange fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White, 5-petaled flowers in flat-topped clusters in May.  Flowers have a slightly unpleasant odor.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Clusters of small, red berry-like fruit (pomes).
The common name Rowan refers to the old Scandinavian word meaning red. 

Cultivars and their differences

Cardinal Royal® European Mountain-ash (Sorbus aucuparia 'Michred'):  Upright, narrow oval form (35 high by 20 wide); bright red fruit.



Location of Sorbus aucuparia (European mountain ash) at the Arboretum