Whether crag-bound on a lonely moor or busy with birdlife on a city street, the rowan is a tree that captivates the senses and stimulates the imagination. Its delicate, feathery leaves, creamy spring blossom and scarlet clusters of autumn fruit have delighted artists, poets and plant enthusiasts through the ages.
Rooted in ecology, Rowan is the first in-depth social history of this much-loved plant. Addressing topics from myth, medicine and folklore to Romanticism and cultural nationalism, and from the literature of revolutionary Russia to Land Art and contemporary rewilding, Oliver Southall uncovers the many meanings of the mountain ash: as a marker of regional identity and resistance to internal colonisation, as a potent symbol of political and personal nostalgia, and as a focus for environmental activism made ever-more pressing by climate change and biodiversity loss.
Taking the reader on a surprising and eclectic journey, Rowan charts our changing relationships with nature and landscape, raising urgent questions of how we value and relate to the non-human world.
Oliver Southall is the author of Borage Blue (2019), a collection of prose and verse meditations on poetics, nature and sensation. His poetry has appeared in a range of publications including Footprints: An Anthology of New Ecopoetry (2022). He lives in West Sussex, UK.
"This is a beautiful book about a beautiful tree. In graceful prose, Southall ranges widely across science, history and myth, revealing the many ways that trees grow around our cultures and imaginations."
– Merlin Sheldrake, author of Entangled Life
"A gorgeous celebration of one of my most beloved trees – Ollie Southall has done the gracious, generous, sustaining and protecting rowan beautiful justice in this gem of a book."
– Amy-Jane Beer, author of A Tree A Day
"A remarkable account of the rowan's essential presence in our lives, from folklore to film, as well as in the long natural history of our planet. The tree bears its rich cultural heritage as cheerfully as its bright red berries: this beautifully illustrated book is a celebration and a revelation."
– Fiona Stafford, author of The Long, Long Life of Trees