Species list


Sorbus domestica

Service tree

Service tree, true service tree (Eng), serbal común, serbal doméstico (Spa), server (Cat), gurbea (Baq), serbal (Glg), sorveira (Por).


DID YOU KNOW...? This species used to be cultivated very frequently as its ripe fruits are edible and very nutritious.


Straight-trunked deciduous tree with large branches, which easily reaches up to 12 m in height, although some specimens are as tall as 20 m. The bark is fissured and detaches easily. The buds are sticky and hairless, a character that distinguishes this species from Sorbus aucuparia L., particularly in the winter. The leaves are compound, with 5 to 8 pairs of facing leaflets and one terminal leaflet (odd-pinnate), very similar to the rowan. Young leaves are hairy, but they lose this characteristic as they mature. The margin is serrated, this is more apparent towards the apex. The flowers appear in April or May in numerous white terminal groups. At the beginning the fruits are yellow or reddish, and when mature they look like small brown or greyish pears around 2-3 cm long. This is another fact which serves to differentiate this species from Sorbus aucuparia, whose fruits rarely exceed one centimetre in length.


The service tree is not very common; it grows in coniferous and broadleaved woodlands, most often in forests of pines, holm oaks, cork oaks and Portuguese oaks, where it takes advantage of humid spots in valleys. It prefers limestone soils although it can be found on acidic substrates. It likes a Mediterranean climate which does not have very cold winters. It requires partial shade and a certain amount of moisture in the summer. It appears from the lowlands up to altitudes of approximately 1100 m.


This is a circum-Mediterranean species, although it does reach as far as central Europe. It lives throughout southern Europe, northern Africa and reaches Turkey in the east. On the Iberian Peninsula, although it grows wild in the forests it is rare and is often cultivated in orchards for its fruit, or forms part of hedgerows and boundaries, making its original range unclear. Examples are found all over the Cordillera Cantábrica and Pyrenean mountain ranges and in the eastern half of Spain, but this species disappears in the southeast and northwest of the peninsula.