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Service Tree

Service tree (Sorbus domestica)

Sorbus domestica, with the common name service tree or sorb tree (because of its fruit), is a species of Sorbus native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa (Atlas Mountains), and southwest Asia (east to the Caucasus). It may be called true service tree, to distinguish it from wild service tree Sorbus torminalis.

It is generally rare, listed as an endangered species in Switzerland and Austria, and uncommon in Spain. In the UK, one very old tree that existed in the Wyre Forest before being destroyed by fire in 1862 used to be considered native, but it is now generally considered to be more likely of cultivated origin, probably from a mediaeval monastery orchard planting. More recently, a small population of genuinely wild specimens was found growing as stunted shrubs on cliffs in south Wales (Glamorgan) and nearby southwest England (Gloucestershire). It is a very rare species in Britain, occurring at only a handful of sites. Its largest English population is within the Horseshoe Bend Site of Special Scientific Interest at Shirehampton, near Bristol.

It is a deciduous tree growing to 15–20 m tall with a trunk up to 1 m diameter, though it can also be a shrub 2–3 m tall on exposed sites. The bark is brown, smooth on young trees, becoming fissured and flaky on old trees. The winter buds are green, with a sticky resinous coating. The leaves are 15–25 cm long, pinnate with 13–21 leaflets 3–6 cm long and 1 cm broad, with a bluntly acute apex, and a serrated margin on the outer half or two thirds of the leaflet. The flowers are 13–18 mm diameter, with five white petals and 20 creamy-white stamens; they are produced in corymbs 10–14 cm diameter in late spring, and are hermaphrodite and insect pollinated. The fruit is a pome 2–3 cm long, greenish-brown, often tinged red on the side exposed to sunlight; it can be either apple-shaped or pear-shaped.

From Wikipedia

Leaves and flowers of the service tree (photo: G. Aas)

The small apple fruits contain plenty of tannins. Raw they taste tart and have an astringent effect (Photo: G. Aas)

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