The whitebeam is widespread in southern, central and western Europe, including Great Britain, the southern tip of Sweden marking the northernmost limit of its range. Throughout this area, however, it occurs fairly sparsely. A light-demanding and warmth-loving species, it is often found growing on chalk or limestone hills facing south. In such conditions, it may be found at elevations even over 1000 metres.
The whitebeam is a small tree, 10 to 15 metres high, often occurring only as a shrub on shallow soils. The bark is grey-brown, the ovoid buds are green and slightly downy. The leaves have no resemblance to those of the mountain ash, being ovate in outline and densely white hairy beneath. The white flowers, borne in broad panicles, appear from May to June. The berry-like fruit is broadly ovoid and scarlet. The stalk and remainder of the calyx are covered with whitish down. It is an important tree in the afforestation of karst areas and is a popular ornamental in city parks and gardens. Growing in the high mountain alpine zone is the shrub form Sorbus chamaemespilus Crantz., with leaves that are hairless below.
Leaves: 5—12 cm long, elliptic to broadly ovate, bluntly pointed, lustrous green above, white tomentose below, with doubly serrate margin. Flowers: White. Fruit: Berry-like, scarlet, 8—15 mm long.