Wild Service tree

The fruits are used to make strong alcoholic drinks and can also be used to flavor alcoholic drinks such as whiskey. In traditional medicine the fruits of the Wild Service Tree have been used for their astringent effects which are due to the high tannin content. Wild service tree represents the most valuable hard wood on European market. Nowadays the wood is mainly used for decorative veneers, but in the past musical instruments, billiard sticks and screws for winepresses are just some of the products made from it.

It’s good to freeze the fruits to make them edible. Therefore it is recommended to harvest fruits after the first frosts, because after freezing they contain less tannin and become pastier.

Latin name:
Sorbus torminalis (L.) Crantz
Order, Familiae:
Rosales, Rosaceae
Part of specie used:
Berries, Wood
Beverages, Decoration, Foodstuff, Natural medicines

Wild service tree is a deciduous tree, which can reach 25 – 30 m in height. The trunk can reach over 1 m in diameter. Bark is smooth and grey colored. It’s stripping away leaving darker layers beneath. Leaves have five to nine lobes, with both sides smooth and shiny. Flowers flourish during May and June. They are monoecious hermaphrodite and insect pollinated.

The fruits are round to oval, greenish colored, 8-10 mm in diameter; they are ripening in September to November, when the color changes to reddish – brown. The tree can live up to 300 years of age. Wild service tree prefers clay and lime based dry soils. The plant is thermophilic, and the fruits contain high content of pectin, vitamin C, flavonoglycosides, and fruit acids. The optimum mean annual temperature is 10 °C – 17 °C (it withstands down to -5°C in April), precipitation 700 mm – 1500 mm, pH range from 3,5 up to 8. Young trees are susceptible to browsing by ungulates. The leaves can be attacked by leaf scab (Venturia inaequalis (Cooke) G. Winter), leaf aphids and gall mites (Eriophyes spp.). Serious threat for older stems is honey fungus (Armillaria spp.)


The species is growing in small groups or as solitary trees. Since small quantities of wood are harvested and berries are not so popular, management is not developed.


There are no data about global berries trade, although small scale trade exists. The berries are sold directly by farmers, on street sales or via restaurants.

They are mostly used as snacks or as ingredients in muesli or chocolate. Other Wild service tree products are: honey, noodles, cakes, etc.

Although it has high quality timber, there is no importance of this species on wood market, since only several thousands of cubic meters are harvested yearly.


Sommer, Höbaus, Wiesenwienerwald Elsbeere (Wiesenwienerwald Wild Service Tree),
Idžojtić, M., Brekinja, Sorbus torminalis (L.) Crantz – plemenita listača naših šuma, Šum. list 3-4, 2004, p.181-185.
San-Miguel-Ayanz, J., De Rigo, D., Caudullo, G., Houston Durrant, T., Mauri, A., European Atlas of Forest Tree Species, Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. ISBN: 978-92-79-36740-3. DOI: 10.2788/038466, 2016


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The INCREDIBLE project aims to show how Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) can play an important role in supporting sustainable forest management and rural development, by creating networks to share and exchange knowledge and expertise. ‘Innovation Networks of Cork, Resins and Edibles in the Mediterranean basin’ (INCREDIBLE) promotes cross-sectoral collaboration and innovation to highlight the value and potential of NWFPs in the region.


Innovation Networks of Cork, Resins and Edibles in the Mediterranean basin’ (INCREDIBLE) project receives funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme under grant agreement Nº 774632