Species of the month

Species of the Month: Rowan

Rowan © Margaret Holland

Help us with our wildlife surveys

Our Species of the Month species surveys are an important way you can help us.  Records are sent to DERC (Dorset Environmental Records Centre) who collate this information to build up a picture of the of the state of Dorset's wildlife. So please help us help wildlife by filling in the form below. Thank you!

November Species of the Month: Rowan

Scientific Name: Sorbus aucuparia


Rowan is a small fast-growing tree in the rose family, Rosaceae.  Rowan leaves are made up of 5-8 pairs of ‘saw-edge’ leaflets.  The tree has clusters of white flowers in spring & red berries in the autumn. 

Rowan © Margaret Holland

Rowan © Margaret Holland

Food plant of...

The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of moths such as the Welsh wave and autumn green carpet. 

Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, while the berries are a great food source for birds such as blackbirds and thrushes.  In a cold winter they are enjoyed by migrating waxwing. 



In the spring the rowan produces white flowers which, if successfully pollinated, develop into red berries in the autumn. These are eaten by birds and some of the discarded seeds germinate into new rowan trees. 

Did you know?

  • Rowans used to be widely planted as the colour red was considered good for fighting evil.  In Ireland it was planted near houses to protect them against spirits, and in Wales rowan trees were planted in churchyards.  Cutting down a rowan was considered taboo in Scotland. 

Where can they be found?

A widespread tree famously found in mountains (hence it’s other name, “mountain ash”), but is common in heathland and woodland edges, towns and gardens. 

You may see a rowan tree at one of our reserves such as: 

Ashley Wood Nature Reserve 

Hibbitt Woods Nature Reserve 

Hendover Coppice Nature Reserve 


Wildlife gardening tips

Planting native trees, such as rowan in your garden to provide shelter and food source for other wildlife and encourage pollinators to visit. 

Plant mixed native hedges, install bird boxes, feeders and tables to allow for a bird population to interact with the rowan tree. 

Species of the Month sightings form

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Blue tit © Stewart Canham