The Mountain Ash

 In Environment, Gardening

Is it possible to exaggerate the value of a tree. Yes, I know that they tie up carbon and benefit the environment by their sheer presence. However, other benefits might be more difficult to assess and yet far more important. For instance, there appear to be more insects around this tree, the rowan, than many, a fact that might be difficult to prove. For certain, birds can be seen heading into the tree, more especially in the autumn. That is because of the berries, red and luscious. Otherwise, and because it is a native tree, there will be caterpillars, aphids and heaven knows what within its branches. The mountain ash is a real gem of a tree.


The tree in my photo is adjacent to my house. The sheer profusion of berries is amazing. However, some will say these are messy, as are the leaves falling everywhere. That is a small price to pay for such a gorgeous tree. For that reason, Ann and I have planted two in our back garden. The latin name is Sorbus Aucuparia. It is indifferent to soil types, is hardy and never needs pruning. The ultimate height is between 30 and 50 feet. The creamy white flowers appear in may or June and the berries follow. Each berry is like a small apple, and contains 5 seeds, each coated in a leathery jacket. This protects them as they pass through a bird’s gut and are spread far and wide. Multiply the berries by 5 and each tree spreads a huge number of seeds.

The mountain ash

The seed, when it grows wild, sends down a taproot. This both anchors the tree and enables it to gain nutrients. Conversely, nursery grown trees have the taproot cut off early in growth. Consequently, they often blow over more easily and might not live so long. Whatever, at this moment a flock of bullfinches is on the tree eating the berries. They come every day on at least two occasions. Add in blue and great tits, goldcrests and blackbirds and you have the making of a birdfest. What a treat!

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