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Biology

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Rowan gets its alternative name of mountain ash from its abundance in upland areas and from the shape and pattern of its leaves, which resemble its unrelated namesake. It produces a large crop of vivid orange berries, popular with humans as well as birds. There is a long history of superstition connected with this tree and it his believed to have certain magical powers. In Scotland, for instance, it is considered unlucky to cut down a rowan. Wild service tree, service tree and whitebeam also produce fruit, but they rarely ripen in the British climate and it is thought that these trees spread mainly from shoots or suckers. The fruit has been eaten in many parts of the country but it has to be left to go rotten, or 'bletted' before they are edible. Wild service tree's 'chequers' and whitebeam fruit have also been used for making alcoholic liquor, no doubt sold in the many Chequers Inns.
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Conservation

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The various rare whitebeam species are included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme whilst S. leyana is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans. Work on these species is limited, primarily, to protecting the sites where they occur and carrying out genetic studies to ascertain their provenance. It is highly likely that other curious and isolated varieties of Sorbus may be discovered in isolated, and almost inaccessible parts of the British Isles.
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Description

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The genus of Sorbus trees comprises a widely differing group. The family includes rowan, also known as the mountain ash Sorbus aucuparia, wild service tree S. torminalis, service tree S. domestica, and whitebeam S. aria. Their sizes range from 5 m for some of the isolated and exposed varieties, up to 25 m in the case of the wild service tree. Their leaves also display a wide variety of shapes, some resembling the ash and others with a similar appearance to maple or hornbeam. Whitebeam is notorious for producing local varieties, some of these restricted to a handful of individuals confined to an extremely small area. There are believed to be about 14 separate species, but it is possible that new varieties will continue to be discovered - or even evolve - on inaccessible cliffs the British Isles.
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Habitat

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The requirements of these different species vary from acid soil to crumbling limestone rock.
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Range

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Rowan is found all over Britain, chiefly on acid or light soils. Wild service tree is confined, largely, to southern England and seems to be an indicator of ancient woodland and hedgerow. Its stronghold is in the area of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire known as the Weald, and here there seems to be a curious connection. The berries of the tree are known locally as 'chequers' from their speckled markings, and were popular as food. These berries may have been the source of the name of 'Chequers Inn', many examples of which exist in this South-East corner of England. The discovery of the range of the service tree is an intriguing and complicated story. It is now believed that the tree was once fairly common over Wales, the South-West and the Midlands but, until quite recently, the only 'wild' specimen was thought to exist in the Wyre Forest. Then a relic population of wild trees was discovered on cliffs in South Glamorgan. From their location it is certain they were not 'planted' by humans as has happened in collections and arboreta elsewhere in England. Some botanists have suggested that other cliff-faces in the south of England should be examined to see if more undiscovered populations exist. Whitebeam, in its various local forms, is found in isolated places throughout England, Scotland and Wales. One of these species, S. leyana, is limited in its range to a few shrubs growing near Merthyr Tydfil in Brecon whilst, S. wilmottiana is found only in the Avon Gorge near Bristol. The four main species, aria, aucuparia, torminalis and domestica are found throughout central and southern Europe.
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Status

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Not listed
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Threats

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Rowan is a common species, more particularly as it has been planted as an amenity tree in gardens and along residential streets in towns and cities, as have whitebeams. The other species, it seems, have never been particularly common in the UK, particularly the 14 'micro' species. It is quite possible that they are on the northern edge of their range, especially in the case of the whitebeam. It is difficult to assess whether they are truly endangered in the accepted sense, as it is by no mean certain that they were ever common in this county. Sorbus domestica is rare and may have declined considerably in recent years.
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Rowan

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The rowans (/ˈroʊənz/)[1] or mountain-ashes are shrubs or trees in the genus Sorbus of the rose family, Rosaceae. They are native throughout the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest species diversity in the Himalaya, southern Tibet and parts of western China, where numerous apomictic microspecies occur.[2] The name rowan was originally applied to the species Sorbus aucuparia and is also used for other species in Sorbus subgenus Sorbus.[3]

Formerly, when a wider variety of fruits were commonly eaten in Europe and North America, Sorbus was a domestically used fruit throughout these regions. It is still used in some countries, but Sorbus domestica, for example, has largely vanished from Britain, where it was traditionally appreciated.[4] Natural hybrids, often including Sorbus aucuparia and the whitebeam, Sorbus aria, give rise to many endemic variants in the UK.[5]

Names

The traditional names of the rowan are those applied to the species Sorbus aucuparia, Sorbus torminalis (wild service-tree), and Sorbus domestica (true service-tree). The Latin name sorbus was borrowed into Old English as syrfe. The name "service-tree" for Sorbus domestica is derived from that name by folk etymology. The Latin name sorbus is from a root for "red, reddish-brown" (PIE *sor-/*ser-); English sorb is attested from the 1520s in the sense "fruit of the service tree", adopted via French sorbe from Latin sorbum "service-berry". Sorbus domestica is also known as "whitty pear", the adjective whitty meaning "pinnate". The name "mountain-ash" for Sorbus domestica is due to a superficial similarity of the rowan leaves to those of the ash, not to be confused with Fraxinus ornus, a true ash that is also known as "mountain ash".[6] Sorbus torminalis is also known as "chequer tree"; its fruits, formerly used to flavour beer, are called "chequers", perhaps from the spotted pattern of the fruit.

The name "rowan" is recorded from 1804, detached from an earlier rowan-tree, rountree, attested from the 1540s in northern dialects of English and Scots. It is from a North Germanic source, derived from Old Norse reynir (c.f. Norwegian rogn, Danish røn, Swedish rönn), ultimately from the Germanic verb *raud-inan "to redden", in reference to the berries (as is the Latin name sorbus). Various dialectal variants of rowan are found in English, including ran, roan, rodan, royan, royne, round, and rune.

The Old English name of the rowan is cwic-beám, which survives in the name quickbeam (also quicken, quicken-tree, and variants). This name by the 19th century was reinterpreted as connected to the word witch, from a dialectal variant wick for quick and names such as wicken-tree, wich-tree, wicky, and wiggan-tree, giving rise to names such as witch-hazel[7] and witch-tree.[8]

The Old Irish name is cairtheand, reflected in Modern Irish caorthann. The "arboreal" Bríatharogam in the Book of Ballymote associates the rowan with the letter luis, with the gloss "delightful to the eye (li sula) is luis, i.e. rowan (caertheand), owing to the beauty of its berries". Due to this, "delight of the eye" (vel sim.) has been reported as a "name of the rowan" by some commentators.

In the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, this species is commonly referred to as a "dogberry" tree.[9] In German, Sorbus aucuparia is known as the Vogelbeerbaum ("bird-berry tree") or as Eberesche. The latter is a compound of the name of the ash tree (Esche) with what is contemporarily the name of the boar (Eber), but in fact the continuation of a Gaulish name, eburo- (also the name for a dark reddish-brown colour, cognate with Greek orphnos, Old Norse iarpr "brown"); like sorbus, eburo- seems to have referred to the colour of the berries; it is also recorded as a Gaulish name for the yew (which also has red berries), see also Eburodunum (disambiguation). The Welsh name criafol refers to the tree as "lamenting fruit", associating the red fruit with the blood of Christ, as Welsh tradition believed the Cross was carved from the wood of this tree.

Botany

Foliage and clusters of small white fruits
White-fruited rowan Sorbus glabrescens, a Chinese species with white fruit

Rowans are mostly small deciduous trees 10–20 m tall, though a few are shrubs. Rowans are unrelated to the true ash trees of the genus Fraxinus, family Oleaceae. Though their leaves are superficially similar, those of Sorbus are alternate, while those of Fraxinus are opposite.[10]:388 Rowan leaves are arranged alternately, and are pinnate, with (7–)11–35 leaflets. A terminal leaflet is always present. The flowers are borne in dense corymbs; each flower is creamy white, and 5–10 mm across with five petals. The fruit is a small pome 4–8 mm diameter, bright orange or red in most species, but pink, yellow or white in some Asian species. The fruit are soft and juicy, which makes them a very good food for birds, particularly waxwings and thrushes, which then distribute the rowan seeds in their droppings.[2] Due to their small size the fruits are often referred to as berries, but a true berry is a simple fruit produced from a single ovary, whereas a pome is an accessory fruit.

Rowan is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species; see Lepidoptera that feed on Sorbus.

Medium-sized tree bearing small red fruits, standing next to a country lane
Mature European rowan tree

The best-known species is the European rowan Sorbus aucuparia, a small tree typically 4–12 m tall growing in a variety of habitats throughout northern Europe and in mountains in southern Europe and southwest Asia. Its berries are a favourite food for many birds and are a traditional wild-collected food in Britain and Scandinavia. It is one of the hardiest European trees, occurring to 71° north in Vardø in Arctic Norway, and has also become widely naturalised in northern North America.

Cluster of fuzzy white flowers against foliage in dappled shadow
Rowan flowers

The greatest diversity of form as well as the largest number of rowan species is in Asia, with very distinctive species such as Sargent's rowan Sorbus sargentiana with large leaves 20–35 cm long and 15–20 cm broad and very large corymbs with 200–500 flowers, and at the other extreme, small-leaf rowan Sorbus microphylla with leaves 8–12 cm long and 2.5–3 cm broad. While most are trees, the dwarf rowan Sorbus reducta is a low shrub to 50 cm tall. Several of the Asian species are widely cultivated as ornamental trees.

North American native species in the subgenus Sorbus (Sorbus) include the American mountain-ash Sorbus americana and Showy mountain-ash Sorbus decora in the east and Sitka mountain-ash Sorbus sitchensis in the west.

Numerous hybrids, mostly behaving as true species reproducing by apomixis, occur between rowans and whitebeams; these are variably intermediate between their parents but generally more resemble whitebeams and are usually grouped with them (q.v.).

Selected species

Uses

Rowans are excellent small ornamental trees for parks, gardens and wildlife areas. Several of the Asian species, such as White-fruited rowan (Sorbus glabrescens) are popular for their unusual fruit colour, and Sargent's rowan (Sorbus sargentiana) for its exceptionally large clusters of fruit. Numerous cultivars have also been selected for garden use, several of them, such as the yellow-fruited Sorbus 'Joseph Rock', of hybrid origin.[2] They are very attractive to fruit-eating birds, which is reflected in the old name "bird catcher".

The wood is dense and used for carving and turning and for tool handles and walking sticks.[11] Rowan fruit are a traditional source of tannins for mordanting vegetable dyes.[12] In Finland, it has been a traditional wood of choice for horse sled shafts and rake spikes.

Round piece of wood showing cross-section
Freshly cross cut Sorbus aucuparia from the island of Engeløya in Norway with visible heart-wood
round piece of wood cut in half
Freshly rip cut Sorbus aucuparia from the island of Engeløya in Norway

The fruit of European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) can be made into a slightly bitter jelly which in Britain is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game, and into jams and other preserves either on their own or with other fruit. The fruit can also be a substitute for coffee beans, and has many uses in alcoholic beverages: to flavour liqueurs and cordials, to produce country wine, and to flavour ale. In Austria a clear rowan schnapps is distilled which is called by its German name Vogelbeerschnaps, Czechs also make a rowan liquor called jeřabinka,[13] the Polish Jarzębiak is Rowan-flavoured vodka, and the Welsh used to make a rowan wine called diodgriafel.[14]

Rowan cultivars with superior fruit for human food use are available but not common; mostly the fruits are gathered from wild trees growing on public lands.

Rowan fruit contains sorbic acid, and when raw also contains parasorbic acid (about 0.4%-0.7% in the European rowan[15]), which causes indigestion and can lead to kidney damage, but heat treatment (cooking, heat-drying etc.) and, to a lesser extent, freezing, renders it nontoxic by changing it to the benign sorbic acid. They are also usually too astringent to be palatable when raw. Collecting them after first frost (or putting in the freezer) cuts down on the bitter taste as well.

Mythology and folklore

Mythology

In Sami mythology, the goddess Ravdna is the consort of the thunder-god Horagalles. Red berries of rowan were holy to Ravdna, and the name Ravdna resembles North Germanic words for the tree (for example, Old Norse reynir).

In Norse mythology, the goddess Sif is the wife of the thunder god Thor, who has been linked with Ravdna. According to Skáldskaparmál the rowan is called "the salvation of Thor" because Thor once saved himself by clinging to it. It has been theorized that Sif was once conceived in the form of a rowan to which Thor clung.[16]

Folk magic

The European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and give protection against malevolent beings.[17] The tree was also called "wayfarer's tree" or "traveler's tree" because it supposedly prevents those on a journey from getting lost.[18] It was said in England that this was the tree on which the Devil hanged his mother.[19]

British folklorists of the Victorian era reported the folk belief in apotropaic powers of the rowan-tree, in particular in the warding off of witches. Such a report is given by Edwin Lees (1856) for the Wyre Forest in the English West Midlands.[20] Sir James Frazer (1890) reported such a tradition in Scotland, where the tree was often planted near a gate or front door.[21]

According to Frazer, birds' droppings often contain rowan seeds, and if such droppings land in a fork or hole where old leaves have accumulated on a larger tree, such as an oak or a maple, they may result in a rowan growing as an epiphyte on the larger tree. Such a rowan is called a "flying rowan" and was thought of as especially potent against witches and black magic, and as a counter-charm against sorcery.[21] In 1891, Charles Godfrey Leland also reported traditions of rowan's apotropaic powers against witches in English folklore, citing the Denham Tracts (collected between 1846 and 1859).[a] Rowan also serves as protection against fairies. For example, according to Thomas Keightley mortals could safely witness fairy rades (mounted processions held by the fairies each year at the onset of summer) by placing a rowan branch over their doors.[23]

Pagan revivalism

In Neo-Druidism, the rowan is known as the "portal tree". It is considered the threshold, between this world and otherworld, or between here and wherever you may be going, for example, it was placed at the gate to a property, signifying the crossing of the threshold between the path or street and the property of someone. According to Elen Sentier, "Threshold is a place of both ingress (the way in) and egress (the way out). Rowan is a portal, threshold tree offering you the chance of 'going somewhere ... and leaving somewhere."[24]

Weather-lore

In Newfoundland, popular folklore maintains that a heavy crop of fruit means a hard or difficult winter. Similarly, in Finland and Sweden, the number of fruit on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter, but here the belief was that the rowan "will not bear a heavy load of fruit and a heavy load of snow in the same year", that is, a heavy fruit crop predicted a winter with little snow.

However, as fruit production for a given summer is related to weather conditions the previous summer, with warm, dry summers increasing the amount of stored sugars available for subsequent flower and fruit production, it has no predictive relationship to the weather of the next winter.[25][26]

In Malax, Finland the reverse was thought.[27] If the rowan flowers were plentiful then the rye harvest would also be plentiful. Similarly, if the rowan flowered twice in a year there would be many potatoes and many weddings that autumn. And in Sipoo people are noted as having said that winter had begun when the waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) had eaten the last of the rowan fruit.[28]

In Sweden, it was also thought that if the rowan trees grew pale and lost color, the fall and winter would bring much illness.[29]

Popular culture

References to the rowan fruit's red color and the flowers' beauty are common in Celtic music. For example, the song Marie's Wedding contains the verse

Red her cheeks as rowans are,
bright her eyes as any star,
fairest of them all by far,
is our darling Marie.

J. R. R. Tolkien's novel The Two Towers employs rowans as the signature tree for the Ent, Quickbeam. The forest of Fangorn, where Quickbeam and other Ents live, is populated with numerous rowans that were said to have been planted by male Ents to please the female Entwives. Quickbeam declares his fondness for the tree by saying that no other "people of the Rose ... are so beautiful to me," a reference to the rowan's membership in the family Rosaceae.[30]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ The anti-witch rhyme used in Tweedesdale some sixty or seventy years ago (viz. in the 1820s) was: "Black-luggie, lammer bead, rowan-tree and reed thread, put the witches to their speed. ... I have seen a twig of rowan-tree ... which had been gathered on the second of May" (observe this), wound round with some dozens of yards of red thread, placed visible in the window to act as a charm in keeping witches and Boggle boes from the house. — C.G. Leland[22]

References

  1. ^ https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/rowan
  2. ^ a b c Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  3. ^ McAllister, H.A. 2005. The genus Sorbus: Mountain Ash and other Rowans . Kew Publishing.
  4. ^ "The Whitty Pear, Sorbus domestica"
  5. ^ "Cambridge Botanic Garden: the Genus Sorbus". Botanic.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  6. ^ "The similarities in the physical characteristics of all three types of tree [viz., Fraxinus excelsior, Fraxinus ornus, and Sorbus aucuparia] are pervasive enough that they are confused not only in folk terminology, but also in botanical nomenclature". Richard Stoll Shannon (1975). The Arms of Achilles and Homeric Compositional Technique Volume 36 of Mnemosyne, (Brill), p. 41. The English herbalist John Gerard in 1590 apparently fell victim to just this confusion, equating ornus and quickbeam (see below).
  7. ^ "Witch-hazel" is much more commonly associated with Hamamelis.
  8. ^ Abram Smythe Palmer, Folk-etymology: a Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions Or Words Perverted in Form Or Meaning, by False Derivation Or Mistaken Analogy (1882), 443f.
  9. ^ Story, G. M. and Kirwin, W. J. (1990). Dictionary of Newfoundland English. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-6819-7.
  10. ^ Blamey, M.; Fitter, R.; Fitter, A (2003). Wild flowers of Britain and Ireland: The Complete Guide to the British and Irish Flora. London: A & C Black. ISBN 978-1408179505.
  11. ^ Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Metheun & Co. Ltd., London.
  12. ^ Henderson, Robert K. (2000). The Neighbourhood Forager: A Guide For The Wild Food Gourmet. Toronto: Key Porter Books. p. 68. ISBN 1-55263-306-3.
  13. ^ "Sorbier des oiseleurs". Floratrek.hautetfort.com. 2011-06-25. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  14. ^ "Wild Food School". Countrylovers.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  15. ^ O Raspe, C Findlay, AL Jacquemart. Sorbus aucuparia L. The Journal of Ecology, 2000
  16. ^ Turville-Petre, E.O.G. (1964). Myth and Religion of the North: The religion of ancient Scandinavia. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 98.
  17. ^ "Mythology and Folklore of the Rowan". Trees for Life.
  18. ^ Eyers, Jonathan (2011). Don't Shoot the Albatross! Nautical myths and superstitions. London, UK: A. & C. Black. ISBN 978-1-4081-3131-2.
  19. ^ Westwood, Jennifer (1985). Albion: A guide to legendary Britain. London: Grafton Books. p. 257. ISBN 0-246-11789-3.
  20. ^ Edwin Lees (1856). Pictures of nature in the Silurian region around the Malvern Hills and vale of Severn. H. W. Lamb. pp. 274ff – via Internet Archive.
  21. ^ a b Frazer, James (1987). The Golden Bough (Papermac ed.). p. 620. ISBN 0-333-43430-7.
  22. ^ Leland, Charles Godfrey (1891). Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling. p. 198 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ Keightley, Thomas (1884) [1828]. The Fairy Mythology. London: George Bell & Sons. pp. 354–355.
  24. ^ Sentier, Elen (2014). Trees of the Goddess. Shaman Pathways. Alresford, Hants, SO24 9JH, UK: Moon Books. ISBN 978-1-78279-332-8.CS1 maint: location (link)
  25. ^ Kobro, S.; Søreide, L.; Djønne, E.; Rafoss, T.; Jaastad, G.; Witzgall, P. (2003). "Masting of rowan Sorbus aucuparia L.". Population Ecology. 45 (1): 25–30.
  26. ^ Raspe, O.; Findlay, C.; Jacquemart, A. (2000). "Sorbus aucuparia". Journal of Ecology. 88 (5): 910–930.
  27. ^ Tillhagen, Carl-Herman. (1995). Skogarna och träden: Naturvård i gångna tider. Carlssons bokförlag, Stockholm.
  28. ^ Mannhardt, Wilhelm (1963). "Der Baumkultus der Germanen und ihrer Nachbarstämmes". Wald- und Feldkulte (in German). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Verlag. I: 52.
  29. ^ Tillhagen, Carl-Herman (1995). Skogarna och träden: Naturvård i gånga tider (in Swedish). Stockholm: Carlssons bokförlag.
  30. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (1982). The Two Towers. Book 3, ch 4: Del Rey Books. p. 102. ISBN 0345339711.CS1 maint: location (link)

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Rowan: Brief Summary

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The rowans (/ˈroʊənz/) or mountain-ashes are shrubs or trees in the genus Sorbus of the rose family, Rosaceae. They are native throughout the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest species diversity in the Himalaya, southern Tibet and parts of western China, where numerous apomictic microspecies occur. The name rowan was originally applied to the species Sorbus aucuparia and is also used for other species in Sorbus subgenus Sorbus.

Formerly, when a wider variety of fruits were commonly eaten in Europe and North America, Sorbus was a domestically used fruit throughout these regions. It is still used in some countries, but Sorbus domestica, for example, has largely vanished from Britain, where it was traditionally appreciated. Natural hybrids, often including Sorbus aucuparia and the whitebeam, Sorbus aria, give rise to many endemic variants in the UK.

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Sorbus

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Sorbus is a genus of about 100–200 species of trees and shrubs in the rose family, Rosaceae. Species of Sorbus (s.l.) are commonly known as whitebeam, rowan, service tree, and mountain-ash. The exact number of species is disputed depending on the circumscription of the genus, and also due to the number of apomictic microspecies, which some treat as distinct species, but others group in a smaller number of variable species. Recent treatments [1][2][3][4] treat Sorbus in a narrower sense to include only the pinnate leaved species of subgenus Sorbus, raising several of the other subgenera to generic rank.

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Red rowan

Sorbus is not closely related to the true ash trees which belong to the genus Fraxinus, although the leaves are superficially similar.

As treated in its broad sense, the genus is divided into two main and three or four small subgenera (with more recent generic assignments in parentheses):

  • Sorbus subgenus Sorbus (genus Sorbus s.s.), commonly known as the rowan (primarily in the UK) or mountain-ash (in Ireland, North America and the UK), with compound leaves usually hairless or thinly hairy below; fruit carpels not fused; the type is Sorbus aucuparia (European rowan). Distribution: cool-temperate Northern Hemisphere. (Genus Sorbus s.s.)
  • Sorbus subgenus Aria (genus Aria), the whitebeam, with simple leaves usually strongly white-hairy below (hence the name, from German Weissbaum, 'white tree'); fruit carpels not fused; the type is Sorbus aria (common whitebeam). Distribution: temperate Europe & Asia.
  • Sorbus subgenus Micromeles (genus Aria), an indistinct group of a few east Asian species (e.g. Sorbus alnifolia, Korean whitebeam) with narrow leaves; doubtfully distinct from and often included in subgenus Aria. Distribution: temperate northeast Asia.
  • Sorbus subgenus Cormus (genus Sorbus), with compound leaves similar to subgenus Sorbus, but with distinct fused carpels in the fruit; just one species, Sorbus domestica (True Service Tree). Distribution: North Africa, warm-temperate Europe, West Asia.
  • Sorbus subgenus Torminaria (genus Torminalis), with rather maple-like lobed leaves with pointed lobes; fruit carpels not fused; just one species, Sorbus torminalis (Wild Service Tree). Distribution: temperate Europe, south to the mountains of North Africa and east to the Caucasus ranges.
  • Sorbus subgenus Chamaemespilus (genus Chamaemespilus), a single shrubby species Sorbus chamaemespilus (false medlar) with simple, glabrous leaves and pink flowers with erect sepals and petals. Distribution: mountains of southern Europe.
  • Hybrids are common in the genus, including many between the subgenera; very often these hybrids are apomictic (self-fertile without pollination), so able to reproduce clonally from seed without any variation. This has led to a very large number of microspecies, particularly in western Europe (including Britain) and parts of China.

Sorbus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some moth species—see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Sorbus. Sorbus domestica is used to flavour some apple wines, see Apfelwein.

Sorbus species are cultivated as ornamental trees for parks and gardens, and have given rise to several cultivars. The following, of mixed or uncertain parentage, have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit:[5]

  • ’Eastern Promise’[6] (purple autumn colour, pink berries)
  • ’Leonard Messel’[7] (small tree to 4m, pink berries)
  • ’Wisley Gold’ [8] (yellow berries)

References

  1. ^ Robertson, K. R., J. B. Phipps, J. R. Rohrer, and P. G. Smith. 1991. A Synopsis of Genera in Maloideae (Rosaceae). Systematic Botany 16: 376–394.
  2. ^ McAllister, H. 2005. The Genus Sorbus: Mountain Ash and Other Rowans. Richmond, Surrey, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  3. ^ Potter, D., T. Eriksson, R. C. Evans, S.-H. Oh, J. E. E. Smedmark, D.R. Morgan, M. S. Kerr, and C. S. Campbell. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43.
  4. ^ Campbell C. S., R. C. Evans, D. R. Morgan, T. A. Dickinson, and M. P. Arsenault. 2007. Phylogeny of subtribe Pyrinae (formerly the Maloideae, Rosaceae): Limited resolution of a complex evolutionary history. Pl. Syst. Evol. 266: 119–145.
  5. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 98. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  6. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Sorbus 'Eastern Promise'". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  7. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Sorbus 'Leonard Messel'". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  8. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Sorbus 'Wisley Gold'". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
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Sorbus: Brief Summary

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Sorbus is a genus of about 100–200 species of trees and shrubs in the rose family, Rosaceae. Species of Sorbus (s.l.) are commonly known as whitebeam, rowan, service tree, and mountain-ash. The exact number of species is disputed depending on the circumscription of the genus, and also due to the number of apomictic microspecies, which some treat as distinct species, but others group in a smaller number of variable species. Recent treatments treat Sorbus in a narrower sense to include only the pinnate leaved species of subgenus Sorbus, raising several of the other subgenera to generic rank.

 src= Red rowan

Sorbus is not closely related to the true ash trees which belong to the genus Fraxinus, although the leaves are superficially similar.

As treated in its broad sense, the genus is divided into two main and three or four small subgenera (with more recent generic assignments in parentheses):

Sorbus subgenus Sorbus (genus Sorbus s.s.), commonly known as the rowan (primarily in the UK) or mountain-ash (in Ireland, North America and the UK), with compound leaves usually hairless or thinly hairy below; fruit carpels not fused; the type is Sorbus aucuparia (European rowan). Distribution: cool-temperate Northern Hemisphere. (Genus Sorbus s.s.) Sorbus subgenus Aria (genus Aria), the whitebeam, with simple leaves usually strongly white-hairy below (hence the name, from German Weissbaum, 'white tree'); fruit carpels not fused; the type is Sorbus aria (common whitebeam). Distribution: temperate Europe & Asia. Sorbus subgenus Micromeles (genus Aria), an indistinct group of a few east Asian species (e.g. Sorbus alnifolia, Korean whitebeam) with narrow leaves; doubtfully distinct from and often included in subgenus Aria. Distribution: temperate northeast Asia. Sorbus subgenus Cormus (genus Sorbus), with compound leaves similar to subgenus Sorbus, but with distinct fused carpels in the fruit; just one species, Sorbus domestica (True Service Tree). Distribution: North Africa, warm-temperate Europe, West Asia. Sorbus subgenus Torminaria (genus Torminalis), with rather maple-like lobed leaves with pointed lobes; fruit carpels not fused; just one species, Sorbus torminalis (Wild Service Tree). Distribution: temperate Europe, south to the mountains of North Africa and east to the Caucasus ranges. Sorbus subgenus Chamaemespilus (genus Chamaemespilus), a single shrubby species Sorbus chamaemespilus (false medlar) with simple, glabrous leaves and pink flowers with erect sepals and petals. Distribution: mountains of southern Europe. Hybrids are common in the genus, including many between the subgenera; very often these hybrids are apomictic (self-fertile without pollination), so able to reproduce clonally from seed without any variation. This has led to a very large number of microspecies, particularly in western Europe (including Britain) and parts of China.

Sorbus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some moth species—see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Sorbus. Sorbus domestica is used to flavour some apple wines, see Apfelwein.

Sorbus species are cultivated as ornamental trees for parks and gardens, and have given rise to several cultivars. The following, of mixed or uncertain parentage, have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit:

’Eastern Promise’ (purple autumn colour, pink berries) ’Leonard Messel’ (small tree to 4m, pink berries) ’Wisley Gold’ (yellow berries)
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