Whitebeam
(Sorbus aria)
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
White wooly on underside

leaf top side
Top side

leaf under side
Underside

Winter twig
Winter twig

flowers

fruits

branches

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.

ID check

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.

Facts

  • 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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