The Rowan tree - Caerthain or Caorthann

 

The Irish (or Gaelic) for the rowan tree is Caorthann or Caerthain and some minor variations of these. The land ("Tir" in Irish) of the Rowan tree (1) is then “Tir Caerthain” which is duly anglicised as TirKeeran; exactly as Tir Ui Mhic Carthainn is anglicised as Tir Keerin, the name of the Barony in Northern Ireland. There are rowans a plenty in Tirkeeran. Rowans grow at higher altitudes than many other Irish trees and much of the territory is over 500 feet above sea level. 

The Latin name is Sorbus aucuparia L.edulis and the family: Rosaceae. Common folk names are Mountain Ash, Sorb Apple, Witchin, Wiggin Tree and Quicken. One source suggests that the bark and berries (must be cooked) are medicinal. (2)

It has been described (3) as a slim and attractive tree with smooth grey bark, up to twenty metres but usually less. Its leaves are divided into about fifteen longish narrow leaflets with sharply toothed edges. Each leaflet is about five centimetres long and altogether a leaf is about fifteen centimetres in length. The white flowers are numerous and about eight millimetres across and produced in dense heads. The spherical fruits are scarlet, about one centimetre across, containing several seeds in the orange flesh. The mountain ash is quite common throughout Ireland in woods, by mountain streams and valleys and in many rocky habitats.

It has been sugested that the Ui Mhic Carthain may have got the sept name from the ever present rowan; especially as sept names and territory were often regarded as one and the same as in “Hy Mhic Caerthinn”. It has been speculated too that some Cartins may have had their name anglicised as Rowan or Rowantree. (1)


"In Gaelic Rowan is caorann, or Rudha-an (red one, pronounced quite similarly to English "rowan")"; per Wikipedia. Seee Wikipedia entry for the Rowan  at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan 

 

References

(1) Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland parishes of Co Londonderry 1831-5 Volume 36

Edited by Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams Published by the Institute of Irish Studies The Queen’s University of Belfast 1991 Page 104

Place –Names in Tirkeeran Barony by John O’Donovan

History and Natural State

The natives of the mountains of Dungiven, Banagher and Ballynascreen pronounce the name of this barony as if it is written Tir Caorthain, by which they understand “land of rowan trees” because the name Carthan is no longer current among them as a proper name. It is also curious to observe that O’Caerthanian, a family name formed by prefixing O’ to the name Certhanan, a diminutive of Caerthan, is now always anglicised Rowantree, a family name not unusual in Oriel. Now as we find and ancient territory bordering on Lough Foyle called Hy-MacCarthen and a modern barony bearing a synonymous name of Tir-Cairthen, the conclusion is unavoidable that they are the same territory.

 

(2) http://www.shee-eire.com/herbs,Trees&Fungi/Trees/Rowan/rwn.htm

(3) http://www.irelandseye.com/aarticles/travel/nature/trees/rowan.shtm

NAME: Rowan GAELIC NAME: Caorthann LATIN NAME: Sorbus aucuparia L.edulis FAMILY: Rosaceae
COMMON / FOLK NAMES: Mountain Ash Sorb Apple Witchin Wiggin Tree Quicken
MEDICINAL PART: Bark and berries. (berries must be cooked before use)
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Britain and Ireland. Also Europe, North
Africa and Asia Minor.
HABITAT: Prefers light, peaty soils with good drainage, not too dry, likes open unshaded areas with plenty of sunshine but not too hot. Likes temperate zones.
DESCRIPTION: A hardy deciduous tree which produces a large number of berries in autumn. Can be coppiced, new growth from planted twigs. Can grow up to a height of 18 metres and can live to over a hundred years. Leaves alternate and pinnately compound, 13-23 cm long, leaflets 2-6.5 cm long, serrate. Terminal buds, woolly, 13 mm long, lateral buds have several scales. Fruit (6-9 mm diam.) yellow to red, in showy clusters.
FLOWERING PERIOD: May to June produces sprays of white flowers. First fruits appear in September and are ripe by October.

POLLINATION: Insects and Air

PROPAGATION: Grown from seed, dispersed by birds.

ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS: Bitter essence, Prussic Acid, Carotene, Tannic Essence, Mineral, Organic Acid, Parasorbic Acid, Pectin, Provitamin A, Sorbic Acid, Sorbitol, Sugar, Vitamin C.

PROPERTIES: Diuretic Astringent Haemostatic Vulnerary Febrifuge Digestive Expectorant Demulcent Anti-Scorbutic Vaso-Dilator

USES: The hard pale brown wood of the rowan was used to make bows in the middle ages, also used for tool handles, bowls and plates and for general woodcraft. The berries were used to make rowan jelly which was eaten with meat and helped prevent gout.

The berries from the Rowan were processed for jams, pies, and bittersweet wines. They also made a tea to treat urinary tract problems, haemorhoids and diarrhea. The fresh juice of the berries is a mild laxative, and helps to soothe inflammed mucous membranes as a gargle. Containing high concentrations of Vitamin C, the berries were also ingested to cure scurvy - a Vitamin C deficiency disease. Even today, one of the sugars in the fruit is sometimes given intravenously to reduce pressure in an eyeball with glaucoma. Caution, however, must be taken when using the berries. They are reported to contain a cancer-causing compound, parasorbic acid. The poisonous elements are neutralized by cooking the berries through.

The bark was also employed for several medicinal purposes. A decoction of the bark was considered a blood cleanser and was used to treat diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach.

The wood of European Mountain Ash is a tough, strong wood used in making tool handles, cart-wheels, planks, and beams. The Rowan was once a tree of ill repute in Northern Europe, where the Celtic Druids had venerated it. It was associated with witchcraft in 15th-16th century England where it was a symbol of paganism and the supernatural.

TRADITIONAL LORE: The name aucuparia is derived from the Latin word avis for bird, and capere to catch as the fruit attracts birds so much.

Mountain ash Sorbus aucuparia Caorthann Native (Deciduous) (flowers May-June). This is a slim and attractive tree with smooth grey bark, up to twenty metres but usually less. Its leaves are divided into about fifteen longish narrow leaflets with sharply toothed edges. Each leaflet is about five centimetres long and altogether a leaf is about fifteen centimetres in length. The white flowers are numerous and about eight millimetres across and produced in dense heads. The spherical fruits are scarlet, about one centimetre across, containing several seeds in the orange flesh.

The mountain ash is quite common throughout Ireland in woods, by mountain streams and valleys and in many rocky habitats. Although it grows at higher altitudes than any other Irish tree it is also a common ornamental tree in gardens and for street planting and occurs as a diverse range of cultivated varieties with variously coloured fruits and leaves. It is also found throughout Europe and into Asia Minor

Rowan leaves are compound and pinnate in form, meaning that each leaf is made up of matched pairs of leaflets on either side of a stem or rachis, with a terminal leaflet at the end. Leaves are up to 20 cm. in length, and are comprised of 9-15 leaflets, which are serrated with small teeth. Rowan is a deciduous tree, with the new leaves appearing in April, and they turn a bright orange-red colour in autumn before being shed.

The flowers blossom after the leaves have appeared, usually in May or early June, and are creamy-white in colour. Individual flowers are about 1 cm. in diameter and they grow in dense clusters or corymbs, each containing up to 250 flowers, and measuring 8-15 cm. across. The strong, sweet scent attracts pollinating insects, including many species of flies, bees and beetles. The fertilised flowers grow into berries which are 8 mm. in diameter and these ripen to a bright red colour in August or early September. The berries are rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and contain up to 8 small seeds, although 2 seeds per fruit is most common. They are eaten primarily by birds.

(4) http://www.shee-eire.com/Herbs,Trees&Fungi/Trees/Rowan/rwn.htm
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Edward Cartin,
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