Are Rowan Berries Poisonous?

by Russ on October 14, 2013

Rowans are also called the 'Bird Catcher Tree' because birds, such as this migrating Fieldfare, love the berries it produces.One of the most striking of the Autumn trees has to be the Rowan Tree. Also called the Mountain Ash, this species is actually not a relative of the common ash at all. The leaves do look similar, but the Rowan’s has spiky edges.

You can identify the Rowan in Autumn because it’s leaves are turning bright red and orange and it will probably be covered in clusters of bright red berries.

Rowans are brilliant for attracting birds to your garden, such as this stunning Starling.The berries contain the seeds of the Rowan. They want to be seen by any passing creatures, particularly those that can see colour. For these species (which include us) red is possibly the most eye catching, so the Rowan uses the colour red for it’s berries. An animal then eats the berries, travels to a new location and excretes the seeds in a pile of natural fertiliser!

But bright colours in the Natural Kingdom can also be a warning of poison. So are the Rowan berries poisonous? The answer is no. Birds will gobble them down by the beak-full and although raw berries are unpleasant to eat, there are recipes you can find for Home Made Rowan Berry Marmalade!

Just make sure if you do go out collecting that you only take what you need and leave plenty for the birds, they will as many berries as they can find come winter!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Gina Matt August 17, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Great article! i was searching some information on the Rowan Berries in English for my post and picture on my G+ page Naturpunkt.
Some years ago an old healer told me, that one of the best remedies for infects and throught problems is to take concentrated Rowan Berries. Therefore freeze them or take them after the first frost. One should mash them and then freeze in Ice Cube Tray, after thawed use warm.
Your blog is highly interesting! Best regards from Austria
Gina / Naturpunkt


Nolan September 22, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Found a mouse doing something akin to break dancing amongst the Rowan berries under the tree the other day, could they be poisonous to mice? didn’t look very well next morning anyway, mouse half eaten by something.


Bill Jackson November 19, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I have what I believe is a Rowan tree, but the birds do not eat any of the berries, but they do eat all the berries off a holy tree., so I am now wondering if the tree is a Rown after all. Maybe you could tell me if there is a similar tree with poison berrys.
Regards Bill


Russ H November 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Hi Bill,
If it isn’t a ROwan, it could be a Swedish Whitebeam. Birds, however, will also feed from this tree too. It sounds like you birds are simply favouring one food source over another. The Holly berries in your garden clearly taste better (or have more energy) than the other tree.

Hope this helps,



June Miller September 8, 2016 at 10:22 am

I often make rowan jelly from red rowan berries, however, I recently found two rowan trees with white berries and another with pink berries (definitely rowan trees) can anyone tell me if these coloured berries are safe to eat please…thanks.


Cheryl Easton October 2, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Hi, I’m trying to find out whether I can use the different coloured Rowan berries to make Rowan jelly. Where I am we have white, pink, pale yellow and orange as well as the usual red and I’d like to make a selection of jellies. Do you know whether all colours are safe to use? Thank you.
C Easton
ps I always leave plenty for the birds:-)


Russ October 11, 2016 at 8:08 am

Hi Cheryl,

As far as I am aware it is the red/orange berries from the Rowan tree you can use.Where abouts in the World are you if you don’t mind me asking?



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