Service Tree: Planting And Caring For The Rare Tree

In the past, the service was mainly planted on orchards and was used to make must. In this profile, you will learn everything about the properties, requirements, and use of the service.

The service tree, which has become rare, provides valuable fruit for fruit connoisseurs. Thanks to its tolerance to heat and drought, it is considered to be a climate change wood. We introduce the service tree and give tips on planting and care.

Service tree: origin and characteristics

Service tree (Sorbus domestica ), service tree (Sorbus torminalis ), and rowanberry ( Sorbus aucuparia ) are closely related. All of these species belong to the genus Sorbus and are part of the large rose family (Rosaceae). The Speierling is also known under the names Spierling, Sperberbaum, Butzelbeer, Schneebirne or Aeschrösle.

It was originally widespread in southern Europe, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus as far as North Africa and reached Central Europe early on. Already in the 4th century BC, The rare fruit tree was mentioned in writing by the Greeks. In addition, the service tree was well-planted in medieval monastery gardens. Because of its love of warmth, the service tree can be found in Germany mainly in southern, warmer areas and vineyards, in the north up to the Harz foreland.

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The slow-growing service tree is a medium-sized tree and becomes 10 to 20 meters high, in exceptional cases even 30 meters. Outwardly it resembles rowan berries in growth and foliage. The trunk is usually short, the crown around and spreading, with age the tree becomes 10 to 15 meters wide. The bark is grayish-brown, scaly, and looks very similar to the pear (Pyrus communis).

This is where the synonym Swiss pear tree comes from. Service wood is the heaviest of all European deciduous trees, hard and firm, fine-grained and elastic at the same time. Due to its rarity, it has a high value and is mainly used for the production of veneers, but also small pieces of furniture, turning work, and works of art.

The leaf of the service tree consists of several leaflets, is up to 23 centimeters long, and is pinnate unpaired. In autumn the foliage turns yellow to orange. The service’s white flowers sit in elongated panicles and provide plenty of food for pollinating insects from May to June.

Service tree: planting & caring for the rare tree

Apple- to pear-shaped, 2 to 4 centimeters large fruits develop from the flowers, which are green-yellow and bright red on the sunny side. Like quinces, they have numerous hard stone cells that break down when fully ripe. For processing, the fruits are harvested from September, when they are bitter and hard. As soon as the service fruit is overripe, soft, and doughy, it can also be eaten raw.

The taste of the service fruit is tart, sour, and sweet like apple sauce. A single adult service tree can bring more than 1000 kg of fruit in good years, often only 15 to 20 kg in bad years. Fully ripe service tree fruits are extremely tasty but very unsightly, brown, and soft. This is where the common name “bastard” comes from.

Service species at a glance

Strictly speaking, there are no protected and registered varieties of the service species, but only selected from randomly occurring differences in fruit shape, color, and other properties. These selections, which are often regionally widespread, are referred to as “regional varieties” or “regional varieties”. There are, for example, local varieties with purely lemon-yellow or strongly rusted brown fruits.

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Alternatively, a distinction is made based on the shape of the fruit, since many Auslesen do not have their own name: Sorbus domestica f. Pomifera forms apple-shaped fruits, Sorbus domestica f. Pyriformis pear-shaped fruits, but there are also trees with both fruit shapes. We would therefore like to introduce only named readouts.

  • ‘Bovender Nordlicht’: Comparatively small service tree with early and regularly high fruiting. The pear-shaped fruits are bright red-yellow in color.
  • ‘Christophs Apfel’: Small, apple-shaped selection suitable for commercial fruit growing up to about five meters in height.
  • ‘Sossenheimer Riese’: normal-growing, high-yielding service with apple- to pear-shaped, red-cheeked fruits. According to field tests by the State Institute for Viticulture and Horticulture (LWG), it is very suitable for fruit production.

Service tree: planting & caring for the rare tree

Plant service tree: location, time, and procedure

Service trees are extremely light and warm plants. They cope very well with the increase in temperature and drought caused by climate change and are therefore also planted as “trees of the future”. The ideal location for service trees is sunny on dry to moderately fresh, well-drained, nutrient-rich, and calcareous loamy soil.

Service trees are available in all common trunk diameters as half and tall trunks, as well as young plants that are only a few years old in most tree nurseries. However, they are at risk of frost in their youth at temperatures below -5 ° C, they are weak in competition and rather slow-growing.

Tip: Service trees do not tolerate transplanting very well, so container goods should always be chosen for them. Bale goods or bare-rooted plants are better placed only than 1-year-old plants because older plants do not grow well. Caution is advised with grafted service trees (on mountain ash, hawthorn, medlar, quince, or pear), the adhesions are often not stable and the plant is therefore usually only short-lived.

Service trees develop best in solitary positions with a planting distance of five meters on each side.
The best time to plant is in late autumn at the beginning of winter dormancy, from October to the end of November. Alternatively, it can be planted before budding in March.

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Since the tree quickly loses more moisture through its leaves than the roots, which are still poorly grown, should first be watered regularly in the spring.

Planting the service tree: this is how it works

  • Dig a large planting hole, about 1.5 times the size of the plant ball.
  • Improve and mix excavated soil with a mainly organic slow-release fertilizer.
  • Place the root ball in the planting hole, fill it with soil and compact it slightly.
  • Attach tree connection: Knock in two pegs across the wind direction and tie a service tree.

Care of the service: cutting and pouring

The service does not have to be cut regularly, as it does not tolerate this very well. Old, dead, and damaged branches should be thinned out.

Diseases and pests occur mainly on sensitive, young, and not yet well-established trees. In weakened plants, a severe aphid infestation can cause degeneration of shoot tips and leaves. Scab fungi such as Fusicladium orbiculatum and apple scab ( Venturia inaequalis ) can appear on young service trees. The greatest risk for young service species, however, is game browsing by fallow and roe deer, which seem to love the taste of the leaves and shoots.

Young plants at risk of frost are provided with good winter protection with jute, spruce, or fir branches or fleece in the first few years.

Service breeding multiply

Older trees form numerous root saplings that can be cut off, dug up, and moved. Service seeds must be cold-treated (stratified) for generative reproduction or sown outdoors during the natural winter in December so that their dormancy is broken. The cold germs need three months of exposure to the cold and should then be placed in the greenhouse or on the warm window sill at 20 ° C for germination and kept well moist. However, seed-propagated service sparrows need about 12 years before they bloom and bear fruit for the first time. Alternatively, noble rice of adult trees can be grafted onto the seedlings, then the yield starts immediately.

Tip: Seeds that result from the union of the genome of two different trees germinate much better than those that result from self-fertilization. If you want to harvest seeds, you should plant two different service trees or collect pollen elsewhere and transfer it by hand.

Service tree: planting & caring for the rare tree

Harvest and use of the service fruit

The service season begins in September with the ripe, hard fruits for processing. These are either shaken from the tree or collected using a fruit picker. Hard, tree-ripe fruits can be stored dry, cool, and airy for 15 to 20 days, in individual cases even up to 2 months. During this time, maturity develops. The unmistakable service schnapps “Sorbette” is made from it. To clarify and preserve apple juice, but also for the taste, you can add the fruit when pressing the juice.

With the help of the service sprouts, apple wine, cider or the service wine known in the main area can be made. Mixed with quince, apple, or pear, the result is a tasty service jam that is not too tart. If you want to eat the raw fruits of the service tree, you should wait until they are brown and overripe and feel soft and doughy. This usually happens between October and November.

Wild fruit is very much in vogue for regional and conscious nutrition. The Cornelian cherry ( Cornus mas ) also gives us numerous tasty fruits. We present the fruit tree in the profile.

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