Service Tree Sorbus domestica L.


Theservice tree grows in North Africa, Asia Minor and southern Europe, as far north as central Germany. It is sensitive to frost, and requires a mild climate and a fertile, mineral-rich soil to grow well. A slow-growing tree, it reaches a height of 10 to 15 metres, but because it may attain an age of 500 to 600 years one occasionally sees a tree that is 20 metres high. Unlike the mountain ash, the reddish brown bark is longitudinally fissured, even in the young tree. The leaves, odd-pinnate, and grey-downy beneath until midsummer, appear about 14 days later than in the mountain ash. The service tree begins to bear flowers and fruit at the age of 25 to 35 years, sometimes sooner. The flowers, white, sometimes tinged with pink, are larger than those of the mountain ash and the fruits are reddish-yellow and pear-shaped. At one time, the service tree was grown in gardens and orchards, but today its fruits are eaten only by birds and animals. In warmer climates, it is used as an ornamental and planted alongside roads and in parks. The timber, with red-brown heart-wood, is very hard, and is used to make wheels and in joinery.

Leaves: 15—18 cm long, odd-pinnate, with 5—9 pairs of lanceolate, serrate leaflets. Flowers: White to pinkish, in panicles. Fruit: Small, pear-shaped, sometimes ovoid, brownish or greenish, often flushed reddish-yellow, 2—3 cm long, with 2—4 seeds.