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Trees With Flowers Or Fruits - The Mountain Ashes

( Originally Published 1927 )



The handsome foliage and showy flower clusters make the mountain ashes a favorite group of little trees for border shrubberies and other ornamental planting. The foliage is almost fern-like in delicacy and it spreads in a whorl below the flower clusters in spring and the scarlet berry clusters in autumn. Far into the winter after the foliage has dropped the berries persist, supplying the birds with food, especially in snowy winters, when their need is greatest, and brightening the dull thickets of bare twigs on dreary days.

Eastern Mountain Ash

Sorbus Americana, Marsh.

The common eastern mountain ash reaches thirty feet in height—a slender, pyramidal tree, with spreading branches and delicate leaves of from thirteen to seventeen leaflets. The flat-topped cluster of creamy white flowers (see illustration, page 135) appears in May and June, above the dark yellow-green foliage; and the scarlet berries, ripe in September when the leaves have turned yellow, may persist until spring. Along the borders of swamps and climbing rocky bluffs, often scattered in plum thickets, these trees are handsome at any season. Along the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina home remedies are made out of the berries. From Newfoundland to Manitoba and southward the tree grows wild and is planted for ornament in home grounds.

Elder-leaved Mountain Ash

S. sambucifolia, Roem.

The elder-leaved mountain ash overlaps the first species, and is even more daring as a climber. It ranges from Labrador to Alaska, follows the Rocky Mountains to Colorado, and in the Eastern states goes no farther south than Pennsylvania. Its leaves are graceful and drooping like the elder. The flowers and fruits are large; the whole tree tropical looking, its open, pyramidal head giving each leaf a chance at the sun.

European Mountain Ash

S. Aucuparia, Linn.

Most common in cultivation is the European mountain ash called in England the rowan tree. This trim round-headed species is very neat and conventional compared with its wild cousins, but in the craggy highlands of Scot-land and Wales it much resembles our mountain ashes.

Old superstitions cluster around the rowan tree in all rural sections. These are preserved in the folk-lore and ` the literature of many countries. Rowans were planted by cottage doors and at the gates of church yards, being considered effectual in exorcising evil spirits. Leafy twigs hung over the thresholds, crosses made of "Roan" wood given out on festival days, were worn as charms or amulets. Milkmaids, especially, depended upon these for the defeat of the "black elves" who constantly tried to make their cows go dry, and unless prevented got into the churns—and then the butter would never come!

The farther north a tree can grow, the more likely it is to have close relatives in the Old World. One mountain ash of Japan is hardly distinguishable from our western species, and some authorities believe that our two native species are but varieties of the rowan tree of Europe.



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