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Rowan adds colour to woodland throughout Ireland, especially in the hills where it will grow at a high altitude even on rocky ground: its other common name is mountain ash.
The creamy flowers ripen into scarlet berries which colour early in the season and provide food for thrushes through the winter.
A mistle thrush will defend a rowan tree or holly as its territory, not for nesting, but through the winter as its feeding territory.
Rowan is an attractive garden tree: it likes well drained sites but will thrive in most soils.
Collect from native woods or from isolated upland areas. The berries are best collected from the tree itself, before the birds eat them. Macerate the berries and then wash the pulp and skin from the seed. At this stage the viable seed will sink to the bottom of the container whereas non-viable seed will rise to the surface along with the pulp and skin.
If you extract the seed from the berry by macerating or fermenting and then wash the seed, removing all the red pigment, it may be planted in the first spring. Experience has shown that total extraction of rowan seed does speed up the germination process. If you want to sow in the first spring and maximise your chances of germination it is important to gather the fruits early, just as they are beginning to turn scarlet. Germination inhibitors are present in the red pigment.
Stratification should begin immediately, and they will germinate in the first spring. If you gather late, dormancy is enhanced and the percentage of seeds germinating in the first spring decreases. Sow the seed that has been treated as above in March in the first spring.
Rowan can also be stratified whole and planted out 18 months later at the beginning of the second spring - this gives the most successful even germination.
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