Mountainash, European Sorbus aucuparia

European Mountainash - Sorbus aucuparia
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White clusters of flowers appear in the spring after the dark green leaves. In late summer or early fall the heavy clusters of small, orange-red berry-like fruits ripen and make a brilliant display attracting songbirds and other wildlife. Fall leaf color ranges from green to yellow, red, or reddish purple.

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Zones 3 - 6 Zones 3 - 6
Hardiness Zones 3 - 6
The European Mountainash can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the zone map. View Map
Flowering Tree Flowering Tree
Type of tree
Flowering Trees, Ornamental Trees
20' - 40' High 20' - 40' High
Mature Height
The European Mountainash grows to be 20' - 40' feet in height.
15' - 25' Spread 15' - 25' Spread
Mature Spread
The European Mountainash has a spread of about 15' - 25' at full maturity.
Medium Growth Medium Growth
Growth Rate
This tree grows at a medium growth rate. More about this.
Full Sun Full Sun
This mountainash does well in full sun.
Various Soils Various Soils

Prefers acid, well-drained, loamy soil. Avoid compacted, chalky alkaline, or polluted sites.

Oval Shape Oval Shape
This mountainash has oval, pyramidal shape.

An ornamental tree for all four seasons of northern climates. Clusters of showy white flowers in the spring appear after the dark green leaves. In fall the heavy clusters of brilliant orange-red fruits ripen, and the leaves change to colors of yellow, orange rust, red or reddish purple. The golden-amber to gray-brown bark, usually shiny smooth with its prominent lenticels and the upright branching pattern are attractive in winter. Birds enjoy the fruit so that it often does not persist on the tree into winter.


A member of the rose family, the European mountainash grows best in northern climates. Its habit is erect and oval in youth and symmetrical, oval or vase-like at maturity. It is often low-branched or multi-stemmed. The bark is smooth, shiny, gray brown with visible horizontal lenticels becoming slightly roughened on older trees. The clusters of creamy white flowers appear in the spring after the leaves mature. The dark green compound leaves are composed of 9-15 oblong to lanceolate leaflets with serrated margins on the upper half of the leaflet. In late summer or early fall the heavy clusters of small, bright, orange-red berry-like fruits ripen. Birds eat the fruit, and it often does not persist on the tree into winter. Fall leaf color ranges from green to yellow, red, or reddish purple. European mountainash prefers acid, moist, well-drained soils and is intolerant of alkaline or compacted soils, polluted atmospheres, and high summer heat. Because these trees are sensitive to a variety of insect and disease problems, it is important to keep them free of stress. This species requires pruning to develop a strong branch structure.

Wildlife Value

The flowers and fruit provide food for 15 species of songbirds especially grobeaks and waxwings, ruffled grouse, deer, and rabbits.


The European mountainash is native to Europe, western Asia and Siberia. It is naturalized in North America and has been cultivated since colonial times. Other common names are Rowan tree (from an old Scandinavian word meaning red) and common mountainash. The fruits are processed into jellies and jams, made into syrups, juices, teas, and used medicinally. The wood is used for lumber and tools.


Prefers moist, well drained soils


Alternate, pinnately compound, 5"-9" long with 9-15 lanceolate to oblong leaflets, 3/4"-2 1/2" long. Color is dull dark green above, pale green below with serrate margins slong the lower part of the leaflet. Fall colors can be green, yellow, rust orange, red to reddish purple.

Flower Color

Small, creamy white flowers borne in 3"-5" flat-topped clusters.

Bloom Time

After the leaves in mid-late May

Fruit Description

Berry-like, 1/4"-3/8" diameter, shiny orange-red fruits in pendulous clusters of about 40, ripening in late summer or early fall and seldom persisting on the tree into winter.