Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30: Mountain Ash

Lately I've been noticing mountain ash trees, both wild and ornamental, as their clusters of berries have reddened (or orange-ed) and become more obvious. Not only are mountain ash--or rowan--trees attractive, but their berries  are a big source of food for wintering birds. When I see a tree full of rowan fruits, I see a stash of future bird food just waiting for that hungry flock of waxwings or robins to descend.

A few of our neighbors have mountain ash trees in their yard. In Celtic folklore, rowan trees carry protective powers, a good thing to have at the entrance of your home. Native Americans also put the tree, which is not related to the "regular" ash tree, to good use for medicinal purposes--the berries are apparently purgative and help ease digestive tract disorders, among other things. But don't eat them unless you know what you're doing. Or unless you're a bird.

Before the leaves turn,
orange rowan fruits ripen,
ready for winter.

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