Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!

The high altitude scarlet beauty Mountain Ash is exhilarating!

Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash! Who wouldn’t love a beautiful ornamental tree, not too large or too small, with an abundance of leaves, pure white buds and blossoms in late spring followed by bright red edible berries in the fall, a tree that lives for up to 200 years and has the added (albeit folklorish) benefit of protecting us against evil spirits?  Then meet the mountain ash, also known by its more romantic European name, the Rowan tree.

The first thing to know is that the mountain ash is not an ash tree at all.  While the ash is a very large tree, the mountain ash varies greatly in size, according to the growing conditions, but tends to be much smaller (no more than 10 – 20 feet tall) than the towering ash and belongs to a completely different botanical family—namely, the rose!  Indeed, the mountain ash is often so small that it is thought to be a shrub instead of a tree.  It does, however, have a compound leaf similar to that of the ash (only smaller and with fewer leaflets), which is the apparent source of confusion.

The variety of mountain ash that grows in the Smoky Mountains is the American mountain-ash (Sorbus americanus), which is very similar in nearly every respect to its European cousin (Sorbus aucuparia).  The berries of both varieties often last through the entire winter into blossom time the next spring and thus provide an important source of food for wildlife, especially birds which play an important role is spreading the indigestible seeds of the mountain-ash.  In England the berries, which are inedible raw, are cooked into a jam or combined with apples in a chutney and served with wild game and other meats.

The tree itself is very rugged and adaptable thriving in the Southern Appalachians.  While it prefers a rich, well-drained soil, it will grow in nearly all soils, including our stubborn East Tennessee red clay, compensating for any lack of nutrition it encounters by simply adjusting its size.

In the British Isles the rowan tree is associated with many aspects of Celtic folklore and Christian traditions.  Both Celts and Christians believed that the tree provides those close by with protection against various evils, especially witches.  Hence, rowan branches were often fastened to the lintels of cottage windows and doors as well as over barn doors (for witches especially loved the prank of souring cows’ milk).  Rowan trees were also planted in cottage and church yards for protection.  The fact that rowan trees often grow in mountainous areas was also thought to drive witches from their favorite habitat, although the real reason seems to be that browsing animals, especially deer and elk, love rowan saplings and so devour those growing in the valleys.

During Candlemas (February 2—the traditional midpoint of winter) residents of the English Westlands (Thomas Hardy country) place crosses made of rowan twigs tied with red yarn about their houses to banish the dark of winter and welcome the coming light and warmth of spring.  In Ireland the rowan tree is associated with St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland, whose feast day is February 1st.

The mountain ash lives so long, at least in part, because it has no pests or diseases that assail it.  Deer, however, do browse on its leaves—a point to keep in mind if you plan to grow a mountain ash in your yard.

Whether for cultural or botanical purposes, the mountain ash is a native tree well worth considering for our own properties, both to add beauty and provide for wildlife.

Mountain Ash can be found be found in many popular high elevation destinations in the Smoky Mountains such as Mount LeConte and Clingmans Dome in addition to our sister national park the Blue Ridge Parkway.

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

 

Sources:

http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/mtnash.html

https://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/mythology-folklore/rowan2/

More Hey Smokies Features:

No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain Fire Ant Invasion...
Fire ants have marched into Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Smoky Mountain Fire Ant Invasion is underway. This small intruder may pose [Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Virtual Campout...
Smoky Mountain virtual campout will be fun for the entire family! Great Smoky Mountains National Park will co-host the National Park Service[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Clingmans Dome Opens...
Clingmans Dome Opens to the public for 2020 season. Clingmans Dome Opens. Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the Grea[Read More >>]
No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain Attractions Open...
Smoky Mountain attractions open after COVID-19 closures. Smoky Mountain attractions open after two months of covid-19 fears. Smoky Mount[Read More >>]
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Opens
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Opens...
Great Smoky Mountains National Park opens with much anticipation. The Covid-19 virus pandemic forced the closure of Great Smoky Mountain[Read More >>]
Karen Pence Gets Outside Smoky Mountain Style
Karen Pence Gets Outside Smoky Mountain Style...
GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash welcomes dignitariies. Photo credit - GSMNP Karen Pence gets outside Smoky Mountain Style. Second Lady Kar[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Tamale recipe. Homemade tamales are always a Smoky Mountain special event! Did you know that the Smoky Mountains are on the [Read More >>]
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Phased Opening
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Phased Opening...
Wildlife braces for the return of humans to GSMNP. Photo credit - myvetcandy Great Smoky Mountains National Park announces phased opening. B[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Dandelions
Smoky Mountain Dandelions...
Smoky Mountain dandelions (whose Botanical name is Taraxacum officinale) considered by many to be an obnoxious, stubborn, persistent weed are an[Read More >>]
Merle Fest Virtual Concert
Merle Fest Virtual Concert...
Merle Fest Virtual Concert scheduled. Music fans can view 2012 broadcast of MerleFest from Wilkesboro, NC. this weekend. The current pandemic ca[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Event Cancelled
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Event Cancelled...
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Event Cancelled. National Park officials announced the cancellation of the popular synchronous firefly ev[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Eastern Spotted Skunk
Smoky Mountain Eastern Spotted Skunk...
Smoky Mountain Eastern Spotted Skunks give fair warning and provide some interesting acrobatics just before sending out a cloud of noxious spra[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Plane Crash
Smoky Mountain Plane Crash...
Smoky Mountain Plane Crash. National park officials have identified the pilot who survived after making an emergency landing in Great Smoky Moun[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail Mushrooms...
Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushrooms are always in season! Trametes versicolor (common name Turkey Tail mushroom) is a decomposing polypore mush[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Pink Moon
Smoky Mountain Pink Moon...
Smoky Mountain Pink Moon. The Pink Moon or "Fools Moon" will not be turning pink despite the name. April’s full Moon arrives on Tuesday, April 7[Read More >>]
Dolly Parton Reads Imagination Library Stories
Dolly Parton Reads Imagination Library Stories...
Dolly Parton Reads Imagination Library Stories. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free books to childre[Read More >>]
Dollywood Cades Cove Expansion Breaks Ground
Dollywood Cades Cove Expansion Breaks Ground...
Dollywood Cades Cove Expansion Breaks Ground. Smoky Mountain officials announced today the expansion of the popular theme park has begun. The pr[Read More >>]
Native American Fry Bread Recipe
Native American Fry Bread Recipe...
Native American Fry Bread Recipe. This bread has been sustaining Americans for centuries. The simple recipe has been handed down through the ge[Read More >>]
Corona Virus Closes Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Corona Virus Closes Great Smoky Mountains National Park...
Corona Virus Closes Great Smoky Mountains National Park. GSMNP closes to support COVID - 19 prevention efforts. Park officials have closed all a[Read More >>]
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Initiates Corona Virus Health Guidelines
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Initiates Corona Virus Health Guidelines...
Great Smoky Mountains Initiates Corona Virus Health Guidelines. Beginning Monday, March 23, 2020 all national park campgrounds, picnic areas, p[Read More >>]