Simon's Piece May 2024I am on the look out for one of the rarest native trees in the UK The Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis) It occurs in small numbers across most of the country, but I have yet to spot one in Linkinhorne Parish. This distinctive medium sized tree has maple like leaves, white flowers and green/brown fruit. It is widespread through the riverside woods at Lerryn, and I know of a single tree near Merrymeet. It is usually associated with ancient woodlands but can just as often be found as a hedgerow tree or shrub. It often grows in groups as it suckers from its roots.

Sometimes called the Chequers Tree after its fruit which traditionally were used to flavour and clear beer. Hence the name given to many pubs which are named after the fruit rather than the board game. This might also explain why the tree has such a wide distribution in southern Britain but in such small numbers as it was needed everywhere for its fruit but only in small quantities. The name ‘Service Tree’ is thought to derive from the Latin word ‘cervisia’ for beer. Any visitor to Spain would be familiar with their word ‘Cerveza’.
Wild Service is more common in Europe and is thought to be more likely to adapt well to a warming climate. It is also a prized high quality hardwood timber in regions where it occurs more frequently. The Forestry Commission have recently launched a series of trials to investigate its suitability as a timber tree, so it is possible that we may be seeing a lot more of this beautiful species in the near future.

Anne: if you spot one anywhere on your rambles, maybe you can let Simon know? In the meantime, I do hope you’ve been getting out and about in the finally lovely weather at the moment – although the forecast is showing it’s back to changeable tomorrow. Let’s hope that by the time you read this there’s been more sunshine and dry weather for us to appreciate the stunning beauty that is our beloved countryside at this time of the year. (But not too much – we certainly don’t want another hosepipe ban!!!)