Sorbus aucuparia

European Mountainash, Common Mountainash




  • native to northern Europe and Asia
  • zone 3

Habit and Form

  • a small to medium-sized, deciduous tree
  • typically 20' to 40' tall
  • shape is ovate to rounded
  • branching is strongly upright and spreading
  • main trunk is often short, becoming very multi-branched

Summer Foliage

  • leaves are alternately arranged
  • pinnately compound
  • 5" to 9" long
  • 9 to 15 leaflets is most common
  • leaflets are .75" to 2.5" long with a pointed oval shape
  • margins of leaflets are serrated toward the tips
  • dark green above, frosty green below

Autumn Foliage

  • leaves change from green to yellow to orange to somewhat reddish
  • can be showy or disappointing


  • blooms in May
  • rounded, flat-topped clusters
  • white color
  • malodorous
  • individual flowers only 0.33" across.
  • relatively showy, but not spectacular


  • small, orange-red fruits
  • 0.25" to 0.38" diameter
  • born in terminal clusters that ripen in late August and September
  • fruit is quite attractive
  • birds like to eat the fruit


  • color is light grayish brown
  • generally smooth, but somewhat roughened on older trunks
  • relatively attractive


  • prefers cool to cold climates best
  • likes well-drained, loamy acidic soils
  • avoid high pH soils
  • avoid hot, dry locations
  • avoid compacted soils and pollution
  • full sun

Landscape Uses

  • excellent for effect in fruit
  • good performer in cold climates
  • as a smaller shade tree
  • fruits attract birds
  • specimen


  • stress predisposes the plant to disease and insect problems
  • very susceptible to borers
  • frequently develops fire blight
  • other insect and disease pests include cankers, rusts, aphids, sawflies, and scales
  • often short-lived in the landscape

ID Features

  • very large terminal buds
  • smooth bark
  • short main trunk dividing into multiple trunks
  • upright oval branching
  • pinnately compound leaves
  • a dark band is beneath each leaf scar
  • white flowers in flat clusters
  • orange red fruit in terminal clusters


  • by seed
  • cultivars generally grafted


'Asplenifolia' - A selection for more incised leaflets, this plant does not differ markedly from the species.

'Fastigiata' - This is an upright form with coarse, ascending branches. It produces red fruit and dark green foliage

'Michred' (Cardinal Royal™) - This is perhaps the most common commercial selection. A introduction out of Michigan, the plant is a vigorous symmetrical grower to 30' tall and 20' wide. The habit is upright-oval and the plant bears profuse red fruit amidst glossy green foliage (silvery beneath).

'Pendula' - A novelty form that is not widely available, this plant has drooping branches that are not regular or very graceful. It grows to 20' tall and fruits well.

'Xanthocarpa' -Notable for its yellow-orange fruit, this selection is otherwise similar to the species. 'Brilliant Yellow' is a named selection with yellow fruit on a oval tree 30' tall with a spread of 20'.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.