Rowan / Luis


The second letter in the Gaelic tree alphabet is Rowan (Luis in old Gaelic, Caorann in modern Gaelic), one of Scotland’s most elegant and hardy trees. It is dispersed by birds to all kinds of remote, craggy spots, which means you can come across it in the most unlikely places, and its fronded leaves, sweet-scented blossom, profuse bright red berries and smooth grey bark make it a joy to encounter. The folklore on rowan is dense with magic and mystery.

There is a consultation about what should be Scotland’s national tree, and Mandy is the champion for rowan. Cast your vote here (before 3 December 2013).

Rowan is a favourite species for deer to browse. This is a poem about the imagined repercussions of repeated attacks by deer.


eventually the bitten tree bites back
it rears​ unsheaths its claws and fangs attack
listen to the victim scream smell its fear
watch the rowan rip the hide of the browsing deer
thrashing snap and crush of teeth on bones
the struggle weakens blood on stones
hear the hot breath of the hunter sated with meat
taste the jellied blood of the red tree’s feast

the tree revenged roots itself in rock again
predator pelt reverts to pinnate sprigs
flesh devoured swells in a ring hidden

in may a robin in the topmost twigs
will brave the blossom-frothing jaws to sing
an imitation of the squealing hind​ a futile warning

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