(Sorbus aria)
White wooly on underside

leaf top side
Top side

leaf under side

Winter twig
Winter twig




distribution map

The leaves are oval, alternate, 5-12 cm long, with fine, single or double toothed margins. They are yellow-green above, becoming hairless with age, but persistently dense and white-hairy beneath. The leaf-stalks are 7-20 mm long.

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Whitebeam is a small, deciduous tree with a wide, dense crown. It grows up to 15 m high with a grey, shallowly fissured bark, and is found in woods and scrub, mainly on lime-rich soils but also grows on sandstone.

When the buds are opening in spring, showing the silvery-white undersides of the leaves, the whole tree seems to be covered in flowers, but these arrive later.

The white, 5-petalled, sweet-scented flowers, 10-15 mm across are arranged in dense, branched, flat-topped clusters, at the end of stems. They appear in May.

The round berries, 8-15 mm across, are green at first, but change to bright scarlet when ripe in September.


  • The hard wood was used for making cogs for machines before being replaced by iron.

  • The hairy undersides of the leaves protect the plant from pollution, so it is much used as a decorative street tree for its leaves, flowers and fruit.

  • The 'beam' of whitebeam comes from the German 'baum' - a tree - and a white tree it is.

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