Seed of the Week: Mountain Ash Tree

Our mystery seeds from the orange “berries” last week were from a mountain ash tree, Sorbus sp.

mountain-ash-treeMountain ashes are small trees that are popular in landscapes.

mountain-ash-berriesThe orange fruit, which grow in clusters, are eaten by birds. This photograph of the fruit was taken in October.

sorbus-mountain-ash-seedsI thought probably the tree I took the seeds from was the American mountain ash, Sorbus americana, which grows in northeastern North America.

sorbus-americana-seedsHowever, these American mountain ash seeds by Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database have a pronounced hook at the ends. They are also relatively longer and narrower.

sorbus-hybridaThe seeds look closer to Sorbus hybrida, which is the oakleaf mountain ash (Photograph by Tracey Slotta @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database). On the other hand, the leaves and geographical distribution are all wrong.

sorbus-scopulinaWhat do you think about Sorbus scopulina, called Greene’s mountain ash (photograph by Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)? These are from western North America.

In all likelihood, these landscape trees are a cultivated variety that doesn’t match any of the above. They will remain a bit of a mystery, after all.



  1. sara

    How about European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)? The leaves are an excellent match. My Sibley’s Guide says they are commonly cultivated here in the northeast and often naturalized. And check out the fatter seeds among these (assuming the link works):

  2. Roberta

    Thank you so much! Yes, that does look like a good match.

  3. Sam

    Can I dig a sapling from an 8 yr old mountain as tree. How do I do it.

    Thanks see pic

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