Service Tree

These trees are thought once to have been native within the UK, but in now only thought to be found in the wild where they have spread from cultivated sources and are very rare, found in the wild in only a few pockets in England and Wales. These are deciduous trees but can grow also as a shrub in exposed locations. The fruits can be made into a drink like cider or can be eaten when bletted (over-ripened). The 'true' Service Tree, Sorbus domestica, has also been known as a whitty pear.

Growing service trees:

Service trees are tolerant of atmospheric pollution. They will grow in any well-drained or moist but well drained soil and can cope with dry conditions. They prefer the soil to be moderately fertile and humus-rich. They like a loam, chalky or sandy soil but may struggle a little in a heavy clay. They can be planted facing in any direction and will thrive in full sun or partial shade. They can be planted in more exposed locations as well as sheltered spots, but will tend to remain fairly small in such conditions.

Service trees are in the rose family and so can suffer the same diseases and pests. Consider careful companion planting to reduce incidence of common problems. Chives, garlic and marigolds might all be beneficial companions. An organic, biodegradable mulch may help to suppress weeds during the first few years of growth.

Service trees can be pruned during the dormant months to keep them in check. Remove any diseased wood and any branches that cross and may cause damage to one another.

When fruits appear, if you wish to use them for your own culinary or brewing purposes then you may find that you have to net them against birds, who love them and could take the majority of the yield.

Why grow service trees in the garden?

Service trees have attractive foliage that can have fine autumn colour and produce white or pink flowers followed by berries of different shades earlier in the year, so they can add all-round visual interest to the garden.

These trees are attractive to birds and other wildlife and will be a great addition to a low maintenance wildlife garden.

Though the name 'Service' is actually thought to come from the Roman word for beer, which was brewed using the fruit of the tree, the wood and fruit are actually useful in a number of ways. The wood has a fine grain and will take a high polish. It is highly prised in some countries. Its properties are said to be similar to those of sycamore. The fruit can be made into alcoholic drinks or preserves and can be eaten in various ways.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Sorbus Torminalis, Sorbus Domestica