Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wild services leafing

The wild service, or chequer trees Sorbus torminalis are breaking into leaf now in the Rye Bay countryside. Though quite rare, there are some good groups of this species in our area: on the south east side of Queensway in St Leonards, for example at TQ784121. We also have the largest tree of this species in Britain, at Parsonage Farm, Udimore.

Most wild services failed to flower and fruit last year, but there are plenty of buds this year which should produce a bumper crop of berries. Sadly, under modern conditions, the seeds, though usually viable, normally fail to produce seedlings and this seems to be because of virtually 100% seed predation. The tree is often considered to be an ancient woodland or hedgerow indicator.

The leaves have a characteristic shape and the 17th century herbalist John Parkinson described them as having "a sad greene colour".

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