American Mountain-Ash

On our recent travels through southern Quebec, American mountain-ash trees were abundant, their clusters of bright red fruit adorning both rocky hillsides and lake shores.  Unrelated to ash trees, mountain-ash is a deciduous shrub or small tree (generally under 40 feet in height), represented by 80 species worldwide.  American mountain-ash is native to the Appalachians, the Great Lakes region and eastern Canada while Sitka mountain-ash is found in the Pacific Northwest.

Mountain-ash is a member of the Rose Family, closely related to crabapples, wild plum and hawthorne trees. Their white flower clusters appear in late spring, after the pinnately compound leaves have fully formed; the bitter, bright red to orange fruit clusters mature by October and remain on the trees (unless consumed by wildlife) through the winter.

Deer, moose, fishers, red squirrels and snowshoe hares browse on mountain-ash while their berries are consumed by a wide variety of birds, including grouse, thrushes, jays and waxwings.  Humans have used the wood of mountain-ash to construct poles and barrels and the tree's vegetation and berries have been utilized for a variety of medicinal purposes. For most humans, however, as we found in Quebec, the primary gift of these attractive trees is the beauty that they bring to the the rugged landscapes of our northern latitudes.