Sorbus Domestica, Service Tree
The Service tree is native to western, central and southern Europe, north-west Africa and south-west Asia. Hardy to -23°C
The tree is deciduous growing to 15–20 m tall with a trunk up to 1 m diameter, though 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,I find it similar to an ash tree in appearance.
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 or pear-shaped, and in the past has been used to make a cider like drink. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. The fruit is usually bletted if it is going to be eaten raw. This involves storing the fruit in a cool dry place until it is almost but not quite going rotten. At this stage the fruit has a delicious taste, somewhat like a luscious tropical fruitThe fruit will often begin its bletting process whilst still on the tree. The fruit can also be dried and used like prunes.
Propagation is by seed, layering and air layering.
The wood is light in colour fine grained, very heavy and hard to split, it has been used traditionally to make the screws for wine presses, mallet heads and plane bodies.
One is in our orchard and will be heavily pruned to control its size but we plan to extend its offspring in to our hedge rows as specimen trees providing shade and forage for livestock.