Sorbus Joseph Rock

Sorbus rehderiana

The tree pictured is quite close to the bandstand in the centre of the Park. The photograph was taken shortly after it was planted several years ago. It looks not unlike its close relation the Rowan or Mountain Ash, except for the fact the berries are yellow rather than the familiar scarlet. It has however a rather more interesting history than most trees. Its origin is uncertain.

We know that a Joseph Rock sent a batch of seeds from China to Edinburgh early in the 20th century and that it contained either a rogue seed, or that a chance hybrid occurred. The seedling with unknown parents then found its way to the RHS gardens at Wisley in Surrey, where it can still be seen on Battleston Hill. All specimens of this variety originate as grafts from the original.You could be forgiven for assuming that Mr. Rock was yet another Scottish seed adventurer. In fact he was a brilliant Viennese professor who spoke a bewildering list of languages, including Greek, Latin, Arabic, Tibetan and several Chinese dialects. He worked and died in Hawaii, having discovered one and a half thousand birds and five hundred rhododendrons.

This beautiful tree is a suitable momento to him. Its leaves in the autumn go a kaleidoscope of colours before turning scarlet. The indian yellow berries seen in the photograph remain on the tree some time after the leaves fall, indicating they are particularly unpalatable to birds.