Bastard Service

Sorbus x thuringiaca

The bark alone is shown here. The actual tree is easily located in the Park beside the Pagoda, by North Carriage Drive. It is the bark in winter that stands out as being one of the finest in the Park; it has a shiny green, snake-like quality with large, handsome, well-defined burrs. As with many barks, they look their best in winter with no leaves or flowers to obscure the trunk and branches. Also, the ravages of winter seem to bring up a high gloss in the bole.

The tree is a hybrid of the more familiar whitebeam and mountain rowan, both of which are wild British trees. As with many hybrids, it seems to have acquired good characteristics from both parents.

Its leaves are attractive: they have a deep green topside and a felty, white underside, like the whitebeam. The base of the leaf is (more unusually) divided into leaflets, indicating its rowan ancestry. This feature helps to identify the tree in spring and summer.The white flowers are followed bv red berries, as is the case with both parents. However, the berries differ in having brown `freckles.’ The berries of both parents are used to make a jelly traditionally served with game.

In recent years it has become a popular ornamental in London streets. It can reach 40 feet and has a habit of `lying down’ in old age. The hybrid is believed to have originated in Thuringia, East Germany, hence its specific name.