Wild service tree
Wild service tree, checker tree, chequers, griping tree, sorb (Eng), mostajo, peral de monte (Spa), moixera de pastor (Cat), basa-gurbea (Baq), sorveira (Glg), cornogodinho (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? This tree's unripe fruits were formerly used to cure dysentery as they are very astringent.
This deciduous tree easily reaches a height of 20 m and can be up to 25 m tall. The trunk is greyish-brown and the young branches are reddish coloured and hairless. The leaves are simple and alternate (this character is seen best in the middle of the branches, as at the ends the leaves can appear very close together). They have a serrated margin and a very long stalk. The depth of the lobes is quite variable; there are 3 triangular-shaped pairs, and often the basal lobes are very marked. They are 5-12 cm long and 4-12 cm wide. The underside of mature leaves is nearly hairless, and paler than the upper side, lacking the dense tomentum that characterises other Sorbus species. The small white flowers are borne in large groups between April and July. The ripe fruits are brownish, oval and the size of an olive stone.
Normally this species occurs scattered throughout forests of English oaks, Portuguese oaks, holm oaks and pines, and does not form dense stands. Although it is indifferent to soil acidity, it prefers cool, moist areas with few frosts, and is found in clearings, margins and on scrubland. It lives at altitudes of up to 1300 m.
This is a circum-Mediterranean species which also reaches central and western Europe. It ranges as far as the Caucasus, northwestern Africa, Turkey and northern Syria. It lives throughout the Iberian Peninsula with the exception of the southwest; it is not rare but neither is it abundant.