We meet this friend almost everywhere in Finland, from rocky islets to stony ridges and right up into the Lapland Fells. The rowan or mountain ash grows further north than any other naturally growing member of the Sorbus genus. Finns have always valued it; it was regarded as sacred by their forefathers, and felling such a tree was believed to bring misfortune to the house. In a survey in the 1980s it was discovered that the species grows in every fourth garden in Finland.
A typical pioneer tree, it starts growing quickly in early summer. It also ceases growth early, with the formation of a bud at the tip of the leading shoot, after which it starts gathering strength for new growth the following season. The mountain ash produces corymbs of white, scented flowers in early summer. After pollination, the flowers develop into almost round dark red to orange berries, edible to both birds and man, though usually rather bitter.
The wood of the mountain ash is fairly hard and tough and has been important in traditional handicrafts. It might come as a surprise to many that as firewood it produces more heat than the traditionally favoured birch.