Herb: Wild Service Tree

Latin name: Sorbus torminalis

Synonyms: Crataegus torminalis, Pyrus torminalis

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Edible parts of Wild Service Tree:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The taste is best after a frost because it turns sweeter. The fruit can also be bletted if it is going to be eaten raw. This involves storing the fruit in a cool dry place until it is almost but not quite going rotten. At this stage the fruit has a delicious taste, somewhat like a luscious tropical fruit. Rich in vitamin C. The fruit is up to 1.5cm across and is borne in bunches which makes it easier to harvest.

Description of the plant:


20 m
(66 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Woods, usually on clay, sometimes on limestone.

Other uses of Wild Service Tree:

Wood - heavy, fine grained, polishes well. Used for turning, wood carving.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. If you have sufficient seed it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed. Stored seed germinates better if given 2 weeks warm then 14 - 16 weeks cold stratification, so sow it as early in the year as possible. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Seedlings are very slow to put on top-growth for their first year or two, but they are busy building up a good root system. It is best to keep them in pots in a cold frame for their first winter and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring.

Cultivation of Wild Service Tree:

Woods, usually on clay, sometimes on limestone.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Sorbus torminalis:

The seeds probably contain hydrogen cyanide. This is the ingredient that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. Unless the seed is very bitter it should be perfectly safe in reasonable quantities. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.