Common Rowan tree identification

The Common Rowan Sorbus aucuparia is native to Europe, Turkey and north Africa. In Britain it grows naturally on hillsides up to 1000m and is often found in inaccessible locations such a steep hillsides and ravines to avoid the attention of herbivores. It is also known as the Mountain Ash, because its leaves are similar to the Common Ash, although it is not related. It can now be found in many streets, parks and gardens where it is planted for its early flowers and colourful berries. Whitebeams, Rowans and Service Trees are all members of the Sorbus family. There are 44 species and 8 hybrids in this family in Britain. The greatest diversity of Sorbus in Europe is seen in the Avon Gorge, Some of them are very rare and endangered. A related species Vilmorin’s Rowan Sorbus vilmorinii has fern-like leaves and rose-red to pink fruit and Kashmir RowanSorbus cashmiriana has white fruit.

Common Rowan tree identification – pinnate leaves with up to 15 leaflets, white flowers in spring, red berries in late summer. The tree bears clusters of white flowers in April and red berries in July. The berries are eaten by birds and are particularly sought by migrating species.

Rowan tree

A Common Rowan in an urban area in May.

Rowan tree pinnate leaf

Each leaf has up to 15 tooth-edged leaflets. The leaf shown here has 13 leaflets and is known as a pinnate leaf.

The berries are red by July. This type of fruit is called a ‘pome’ by botanists. It is very similar to that of the Whitebeam.

Rowan tree flower cluster

The tree is full of flower clusters like this in May. This type of flower cluster is called a ‘corymb’ by botanists.


Close-up of Rowan berries in August.


The bark has horizontal lines of ‘lenticels’ which are breathing pores.

The buds are purple and hairy

The lateral buds are pressed close to the shoot.

The lateral buds are alternate