The Mountain Ash (Pyrus Aucuparia, Gaertn.) is not related to the true Ashes,
but has derived its name from the similarity of the leaves.
In comparison to the true Ash, it is but a small tree, rarely more than
30 feet high. It belongs to the order Rosacece and is distinguished from
its immediate relations the Pear, Crab Apple, White Beam and Wild Service
Tree by its regularly pinnate, Ashlike leaves. It is generally distributed
over the country in its wild state, but is also much cultivated as an
All parts of the tree are astringent and may be used in tanning and dyeing
black. When cut, the Mountain Ash yields poles and hoops for barrels.
Both the bark and fruit have medicinal properties.
The fruit is rather globose, with teeth at the apex and two to three
seeded cells. They are used medicinally in either the fresh or the dried
The fruit contains tartaric acid before, citric and malic acids after
ripening; two sugars, sorbin and sorbit, the latter after fermentation;
parasorbic acid, which is aromatic and is converted into isomeric sorbic
acid by heating under pressure with potassa; bitter, acrid and colouring
matters. A crystalline saccharine principle, Sorbitol, which does not
undergo the vinous fermentation, has also been found in the fruit.
The seeds contain 22 per cent. of fixed oil. It has been claimed that
these seeds killed a child, apparently by prussic acid poisoning.
The bark has a soft, spongy, yellowishgrey outer layer and an inner thicker
portion, with many layers of a light brown colour. It has a bitterish
taste, but is odourless.
It is astringent and also yields amygdalin.
Medicinal Action and Uses
In herbal medicine, a decoction of the bark is given for diarrhoea and
used as a vaginal injection in leucorrhoea, etc.
The ripe berries furnish an acidulous and astringent gargle for sore
throats and inflamed tonsils. For their anti-scorbutic properties, they
have been used in scurvy. The astringent infusion is used as a remedy
in haemorrhoids and strangury.
The fruit is a favourite food of birds. A delicious jelly is made from
the berries, which is excellent with cold game or wild fowl, and a wholesome
kind of perry or cider can also be made from them.
In Northern Europe they are dried for flour, and when fermented yield
a strong spirit. The Welsh used to brew an ale from the berries, the secret
of which is now lost .
AMERICAN MOUNTAIN ASH
Pyrus Americana (D.C.)
American Mountain Ash bark is derived from Pyrus Americana (D.C.), which
has many local names.
It has similar properties to the bark of the European species and was
formerly used as a tonic in fevers of supposed malarial type, where it
was often substituted for cinchona bark.
No analysis of the bark of the American species has been made, though the
fruit has been found to yield 4.92 to 6.6 of malic acid.