Scotland’s national tree – rowan?

The Scottish Government is considering whether Scotland should have its own national tree, and if so, what species should be chosen.

The iconic Scots pine is an obvious choice for this accolade but there are other candidates. We’ve invited advocates for six species to give the case for their tree.

In the second of our guest blogs, writer and environmental activist Mandy Haggith explains her passion for rowan.

“I want Scotland’s national tree to be rowan, because I think it has so many characteristics that define Scotland.

First of all it’s tough. You find rowans out in the remotest corners of the land, clinging onto crags, thriving cheerfully in gullies and glens where only the hardiest plants can survive.

rowan treeSecondly, it’s generous and hospitable. Its boudoir-scented white blossoms teem with bees in spring, and its abundance of berries feeds not only our native birds but visitors too. Its scientific name, Sorbus aucuparia, means fruit for catching birds and it is also called the Fowler’s Service Tree because its berries attract large flocks of Scandinavian migrating birds, especially waxwings, redwings and fieldfares.

Thirdly, its berries make a gorgeous ruby-red jelly (for my recipe, see the Handbook of Scottish Wild Harvests). Traditionally eaten with venison, it is tangy enough to use for breakfast – it’s yummier than marmalade on toast – and it is the perfect foil for turnip, making it the ideal condiment to eat with Haggis, neaps and tatties!

Finally, there is no more magical tree than rowan. All witches make their wands from rowan twigs. Across Scotland, rowans are planted close to houses to keep evil spirits away. The cross-beams of chimneys are called ‘rantrees’ in Scots because they used to be made of rowan. Twigs over doors, in stables and byres, tied into the tails and manes of livestock or attached to masts and halyards on boats, are all supposed to bring health and good fortune.

So cast a spell with a rowan stick, and cast your vote for it to be Scotland’s national tree!”

How do you feel about rowan as Scotland’s national tree? You can have your say in the public consultation until 3rd December, and please do leave a comment below.

We’ll be posting more guest blogs featuring other candidates every Friday for the next few weeks…

Rory Syme, PR and Communications Officer Woodland Trust Scotland


About Kaye Brennan

Trying vegan, staying warm. Occasional bursts of words.
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Scotland’s national tree – rowan?

  1. Roy Denney says:

    I love the highlands and islands and have many happy times in the borders and Dumfries & Galloway. I spent my honeymoon of Deeside and love walking in the Cairngorm. I am an Englishman who spends quite a lot of time Scotland by choice not because I happen to have been born there. There is no prettier or more dramatic countryside than can be found in corners of Scotland but its very attraction is that it is so diverse. I have fond memories of hillsides abloom with Gorse but that is a bush not a tree. The bonny Rowan tree is celebrated in traditional song and is a wonderful sight when in its full glory but that can be found in many parts of Britain.
    There are magnificent Oak forests on the west coast in particular but the Oak is often associated with England.

    Whilst it can be seen standing proud in numerous places throughout the rest of Britain surely the magnificent Scots Pine must be the iconic symbol of Scotland

    • Roy, you are right. It is by its name, the tree Scotland should have as its symbol. However, I would not like to see the Pine take over the hills of Scotland to replace the diverse broadleaf forests nature requires to exist. And I will still love the Rowan.

  2. Rwth Hunt says:

    I’m not Scottish and have only been there a few times, but the claims for the rowan tree are less secure than for the Scots pine. If the Rowan Tree song had been used in films about Scotland, there would be more justification for using it as Scotland’s tree, but a film about elves filmed in New Zealand? The Scots pine seems larger and more deeply rooted somehow, It needs to be significant of a country that has one half that is part of a totally different continent from the other. The Rowan tree seems to me to be more particular to Wales, or either, but not specific to Scotland as is the Scots pine.

    Judas hanged himself from a tree. It isn’t specified which. Possibly the Judas tree?

  3. 4foxandhare says:

    The Rowan Tree is my choice too. The folk song of the same name has been used as a rallying call in many Scottish campaigns and was also featured in The Lord of the Rings for the same purpose.

  4. We reckon the Rowan Tree is indicative of Bonnie Scotland, providing food for wildlife, giving beauty all season long. We planted one reminding us of happy days spent there.

  5. John Shirley says:

    I rather thought that Judas hung himself from an Oak.

  6. daphnepleace says:

    I’m not a Scot, so not sure if I’m allowed an opinion, but Scotland is my second home… I adore it, and especially its wildlife and trees. I love the Rowan, and I agree it is a very magical tree, but the Scots pine being the main tree of the ancient Caledonian forest, where wolves still wandered as late as the 18th century, makes it a strong candidate for me. And it’s the preferred tree of lots of typical Scottish birds, including their very own Crossbill.

  7. Michele rist says:

    I think the Rowan would make a perfect tree. For Scotland.

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