The Tuesday tree: a helpful neighbour
This is the season of the Rowan tree. Their clusters of orangey-red berries light up the fields and verges at this time of year, a reminder of all that there is to look forward to with the waning of the year: ripe fruits, glowing colours and a rich harvest. Rowan berries makes a tart, scarlet jelly which is very good with venison.
At the moment the berries look striking against green leaves and blue skies. They are so abundant, though, that it takes a while for the birds to eat them and so there are always plenty left after the tree’s leaves have turned orange. The orange and scarlet together make the rowan a virtual bonfire of a tree by October, one of my favourite sights of Autumn.
As well as providing blazing colour to lift the spirits and good fruits for the store cupboard, the rowan is a useful tree to have around for more superstitious reasons. In Scotland it was long believed that a rowan planted beside a house would keep witches from the door. Since it was seen as a protector, any deliberate damage to it was considered extremely ill-omened. I can remember a gardener refusing to prune a rowan in our garden when I was a child: he was convinced it would be bad luck and cited an instance of someone he knew who had taken an axe to a rowan, against advice, and gashed his own leg. Whether or not anyone these days still really believes such things, I don’t know; trees undoubtedly have a ‘presence’, however, and I would not wish to interfere unnecessarily with the generous and beautiful rowan.
See also: the lady of the woods and her neighbours