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Sorbus intermedia

Sorbus intermedia - Swedish whitebeam

Sorbus intermedia ©Susanna

The Swedish whitebeam is a sturdy mid-sized tree reaching about 10m, with a broad round crown. It grows naturally along the coasts of the Baltic Sea, and sparsely in the south-west archipelago. The leaves are the main difference from the hybrid whitebeam (S. hybrida); the Swedish whitebeam’s leaf is shiny dark green above, sometimes even olive green, with shallow-lobed edges; on non-flowering shoots the leaves may have a single pair of leaflets near the base. The leaf undersides are grey or yellowish-felted.

Originally Linné grouped the Swedish whitebeam with the hawthorns (Crataegus), like the other mountain ashes with entire leaves. The tree can be grown from seed, and the seedlings closely resemble each other. According to current knowledge, the Swedish hornbeam is a cross between three mountain ashes: the rowan (S. aucuparia), the wild service tree (S. torminalis) and rock whitebeam (S. rupicola). The wild service tree was an ancient native of the Baltic area.

The Swedish whitebeam is highly valued as a street tree, being undemanding and tough. In very severe winters some older specimens may be destroyed, as happened in Helsinki in the mid-1980s due to the cumulative effect of consecutive extreme winters.

 

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