Its bark is smooth and silvery grey. Leaves are pinnate (feather-shaped) and have 5-8 pairs of leaflets along a central stalk with a single leaflet at the end. Each leaflet is 2-6cm long, oval and toothed around the edge.
Its clusters of berries, each with several seeds inside, ripen to bright scarlet. But there are some cultivated varieties whose berries come in different colours – from paler orange to bright red.
Don’t confuse with
The only other two native UK trees with pinnate (feather-shaped) leaves are ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and elder (Sambucus nigra). Rowan’s leaflets are serrated and more or less pointed at the end than both of these, and neither ash nor elder have red berries.
Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) has clusters of red berries at this time of year, and is also often planted as a street tree. But its leaves aren’t pinnate like rowan - they have just single, oval leaves.
Get a full description with identification images. See our rowan guide.
Don’t collect too close to roads because of pollution, or too close to the ground, especially where dogs are walked! Cut clusters of berries from trees and knock to remove insects, then wash and pick off stems.