Sorbus domestica

Service Tree

In Stock: 1.125 lb (Total:1.125lb)
  • SORBUS domestica

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1.13 lb


Germination test:
Cut (Full Seed)
Seeds per lb:
1.13 lb
Collected in:
Crop year:
Min. hardiness zone:
Item ID:

Growing Info

Scarification: Soak in water, let stand in water for 24 hours
Stratification: cold stratify for 120 days
Germination: sow seed 1/8" deep, tamp the soil, mulch the seed bed

The Sorbus domestica, commonly known as the Service Tree or True Service Tree, is a deciduous tree native to western, central, and southern Europe, as well as northwest Africa and southwest Asia. This tree can grow to be 15-20 meters tall, or even up to 30 meters in rare cases, with a trunk diameter reaching 1 meter. On exposed sites, it can also take the form of a shrub, standing 2-3 meters tall.

The Service Tree has a distinctive appearance, with brown bark that is smooth on young trees and becomes fissured and flaky on older trees. During the winter, the green buds are covered in a sticky resinous coating. The leaves are pinnate, measuring 15-25 cm in length, and consist of 13-21 leaflets that are 3-6 cm long and 1 cm wide. The leaflets have a bluntly acute apex and a serrated margin on the outer half or two-thirds of the leaflet. In late spring, the tree produces flowers with five white petals and 20 creamy-white stamens. These flowers, which are hermaphrodite and insect pollinated, are clustered in corymbs measuring 10-14 cm in diameter.

One of the unique features of the Service Tree is its fruit. The fruit is a pome that ranges from 2-3 cm in length and is greenish-brown, often tinged red on the side exposed to sunlight. The shape of the fruit can either be apple-shaped or pear-shaped. When picked straight off the tree, the fruit is highly astringent and gritty. However, when left to blet, or over-ripen, it becomes sweet and pleasant to eat. Bletting involves storing the fruit in a cool dry place until it is almost, but not quite, rotten. At this stage, the fruit has a delicious taste, resembling that of a luscious tropical fruit. The fruit is often used in beer-making and can also be used to produce cider-like drinks.

In cultivation, the Service Tree is generally rare. It is listed as an endangered species in Switzerland and Austria and is uncommon in Spain. In the UK, there is a small population of wild Service Trees growing as stunted shrubs on cliffs in south Wales and nearby southwest England. There are also a few sites in Britain where the tree can be found, including the Horseshoe Bend Site of Special Scientific Interest at Shirehampton near Bristol. It is estimated that some trees in Britain have ages of 300-400 years.

Cultivation and uses of the Service Tree include making jam, juice, and brandy from its fruit. Its wood is also known for its usefulness. The tree has historical significance as it is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud and has connections to Ancient Greece, where the fruit was used in various ways. The English name for the tree, "service tree," comes from Middle English serves, borrowed from the Latin name sorbus. Other names for the tree include sorb, sorb tree, and whitty pear, the latter due to the similarity of its leaves to those of the rowan tree.

The Service Tree, with its striking appearance and unique fruit, is a fascinating and valuable species native to various regions in Europe and Asia.

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