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Sorbus domestica - Service Tree - Jerusalem Pear - Whitty Pear - Sorb Tree - Cormier  RSS feed

 
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I am going to post a couple of pictures here to give people an idea of the potential of this little-known fruit tree.
It happens to be the largest member of the rose family (like apple, cherry and pear) and was already consumed ages ago by greek philosophers for example.
It can't live up to a nice juicy peach in terms of taste but once the fruit is bletted i find it tastes good.
It's a bit like the medlar in that respect. Trees grow up to about 60 feet and can live up to 400 years.
No other european fruit tree gives as much fruit in terms of quantity.
It is very good for bees and all wildlife love to eat the fruit.
you can make jam, pastry and excellent alcohol with the fruit or just eat it once it's ripe.
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pollinator
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Very interesting! I've never heard of it. Is it available in the US?
 
gardener
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Sorbus domestica aka Service Tree aka Jerusalem Pear aka Whitty Pear aka Sorb Tree

Forestfarm.com in Oregon is supposed to have plants but their website answers with a 403 error no matter how you try to get to it. Will try calling them after the holiday (US Columbus, Canada Thanksgiving)

A few places sell seed. The seed is stratify and soak 24 hours before planting.

It is listed as a zone 6-10.

Bletting is the process of letting the fruit sit and over-ripen to the point of rotten. Otherwise it's rather bitter. Fruit are rather small.

There is another variety that is 'wild' so make sure of what you're ordering, go by the latin name.
 
pollinator
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One Green World sells two selections, an "apple form" and a "pear form".
https://onegreenworld.com/product/apple-form-2/
https://onegreenworld.com/product/pear-form-2/
 
pollinator
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I interesting leaves, seems like they could make for some nice dappled shade.
Seems like a good choice for added value products, due to the uniqueness factor.
If it produces more than other fruits in the same family it might make great forage.
I wonder about disease resistance, and grafting compatibility.
Lots to think about, thanks for sharing!
 
Philip Heinemeyer
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For those of you who are interested i can send seeds of this tree. i just collected fruit of a large fruited variety, that makes yellow somewhat pear-shaped fruit.
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Philip Heinemeyer
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The fruit are the same in the fourth picture of my first post.
While there is no guarantee that trees grown from seed of these large fruits will equally produce large-fruited trees it seems logical to grow them if you are looking for large-fruited trees.

The large fruits of this variety (i only collected the big ones) mesure 4 cm (1.57 inch) in diameter and 4.5 cm (1.77 inch) in height
and weigh 32 grams (1.12 ounce) on average.  Once soft, they taste very good.

Detailed seeding instructions:
Get some sand and sieve it in order to obtain fine grained sand. Place some sand in an oven at a high temperature for fifteen minutes to sterilise and dry it.
Put 6 flat teaspoons of sand and 1 flat teaspoon of water into a sterilised jam jar and add the seeds into it. Then put the jam jar into a plastic bag squeeze out the air, tie a knot and put it into the fridge.
(Putting a plastic bag around the jam jar ensures additional safety to prevent moisture from leeking into the jar)
This works very well for any type of stratification of pretty much any type of seed,by the way.
Leave the seeds in the fridge for 100 days.
Towards the end of the 100 days you can check if seeds have already started to sprout. (if so take out and plant)
After the 100 days of stratification take out the seeds and sow them in weed free soil in abox or so.
3 to 4 weeks later you will see the small trees starting to grow.
Plant each seedling into a jiffypot made of turf or coconut (this is important!) and water regularly, but not too much.
Once the roots are starting to grow out of the jiffypots plant them into larger pots.
Ideally plant the Young trees the following winter into their final position protecting and fencing them well.
Depending on soil, light etc.. they will grow between 1 and 3 feet the first year.
 
Philip Heinemeyer
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Sorry maybe i wasn't very clear there.
Obviously you close the lid of the jam jar with the sand, water and seeds in it and then put a plastic bag (with no holes) around it and tie a knot.
Also once the roots grow out of the jiffypot you plant the seedling with the jiffypot into a larger pot.
 
Philip Heinemeyer
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Detailed planting instructions:
Dig a hole that is larger than the pot or the rootball.
Loosen the soil but try not to mix the earth layers too much.
Break a couple of glass bottles and put the glass shards into the planting hole as you fill up the hole and plant the tree.
This is a cheap, effective way to ensure that no moles or underground rodents will eat the roots. (only necessary in certain areas- optional)
Put four small stakes into the ground at about a foot and a half from the tree and attach chicken wire to them (the finer the mesh the better)
This protects against rabbits and mice.
You can paint the lower part of the trunk with tar, also. (optional)
Put four large 5 feet poles at 3 feet or more from the trunk into the ground and install sheep fencing to protect against deer, cows etc...
Mulch heavily with straw, leaves, hay or any other suitable biodegradable material (fresh grass clippings not too thick!!!)
Put a stake in the main Wind direction and tie the tree to the stake.
Plant comfrey around the tree (optional)

The true service tree (sorbus domestica) will grow in almost any soil but it absolutely needs LIGHT!!!
It is very heliophile (sun-loving) and benefits from as much sunlight as possible.
It makes a very pretty, majestic solitary tree in fields for example.
 
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Hello Philip, how are you?

The true service tree (sorbus domestica) is a european only tree. It was forgotten for about 150 years even in Europe, but it comes back in Germany and Austria (tree of the year 1993 and 200 and France (planted in nearly all agroforestry projects) as well as central/eastern Europe thanks to interested people. Some service trees can be found in botanic gardens around the world, but there should be at least 2 trees to get good quality fruits/seeds.

For those who live near California or can travel to Califormia, Sebastopol, there are 8 (I think) about 100 years old trees in the former Luther Burbank experimental farm. The seeds from these 8 trees should be of very good quality. This year it is a bit late to collect fruits, as they fall between mid-september and mid-october, but there are late trees which deliver the fruits at end of october, maybe there is one there. Anyway those interested only by seeds can collect from rotten fruits on the ground until end of november or even later. The seeds are like pear or apple seeds, it is the same family of plants (rosacea).

http://www.wschsgrf.org/luther-burbank-gold-ridge-experiment-farm

If someone could get there, we would be very interested by the girth of those 8 trees as the relation age/girth is not very well known, but the age of the trees in Sebastopol is known.

To conclude: thanks to Philip (who started this thread) as he is the one who rediscovered those 8 trees

Arnould, near Paris, France


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Me under a true service tree in the forest of Saint-Germain, near Paris. Yes with a miracle or some help, service trees can grow in forests, and yes, they look like giant apple trees...
 
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For those of you who are interested i can send seeds of this tree. i just collected fruit of a large fruited variety, that makes yellow somewhat pear-shaped fruit.



If it's not too late I would love to try to grow this tree...should I PM my address to you? and let me know how to do shipping and what would be the cost of the seeds?  Thanks!
 
Arnould Nazarian
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Some more informations about germination of sorbus domestica seeds.

A year ago I wrote about the same informations as Philip in French on this site, with a number of pictures:

http://www.greffer.net/discussion//viewtopic.php?t=368&start=157

Interesting is that it is possible to place the seeds in small holes filled with sand directly in place, if winter is cold enough, they will germinate, if not they could come the following year. Do not dig a big hole filled with good humus as this would be perfect for mice to colonise. The trees will be strong enough to build roots in any type of soil. These trees will never be shocked by transplantation, but they must be protected against attacks by mice and grass eating animals like Philip explained.

Then there is this document in english from one of those interested people in Central Europe (if you google the name of the author you will see that she deals with sorbus domestica for many years):

http://www.agriculturejournals.cz/publicFiles/166854.pdf

The trees will produce fruits about 15 years later. In 100 years they could deliver up to 1000 pounds of fruits every year, about the same as old big pear trees. I think that the trees in Sebastopol deliver 2 to 4 tons of fruits per year...
 
Arnould Nazarian
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I just saw that I gave the wrong URL about Luther Burbank's sorbus domesticas. Here the right one (I wonder why it so difficult to find):

http://www.wschsgrf.org/farm-walking-tour/9
 
Philip Heinemeyer
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Hello Judith,
unfortunately all my seeds are gone for this year, but i will surely have seeds next year again.
I have, however , received sorbus domestica seeds for free from the american GRIN seedbank before that germinated very well so i would suggest you should try and contact them for the time might be right just now.
If not i might have seeds again next year (sorry)

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/search.aspx?       ; (type in sorbus domestica) you might be able to get seeds



Hello Arnould,
that's a very impressive photograph of a big tree! Thanks for everything you have done and i am looking forward to seeing you at the conference on the 25th of November
Cheers,
Philip
 
Philip Heinemeyer
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Here is a wonderful picture of a true service tree in autumn. Notice the apple trees in front and their size difference!
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Philip Heinemeyer
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and some more pictures

true service tree next to fruit trees in orchard

and two massive old trees
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Judith Browning
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Philip Heinemeyer wrote:Hello Judith,
unfortunately all my seeds are gone for this year, but i will surely have seeds next year again.
I have, however , received sorbus domestica seeds for free from the american GRIN seedbank before that germinated very well so i would suggest you should try and contact them for the time might be right just now.
If not i might have seeds again next year (sorry)

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/search.aspx?       ; (type in sorbus domestica) you might be able to get seeds



Thanks Philip, I'll check out GRIN and keep a watch on this thread.  Such an interesting and long lived tree.
 
Arnould Nazarian
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Hello,

I have a lot of seeds for sorbus domestica. How I got so many is a long story. They come from a place where there are 4 trees, the fruits were beautiful, the seeds are really pretty. You can try to private mail me, I do not look at this email every day, but well... For more comments on this tree, albeit in French, google "cormier Arnould". I hope to start a blog about this tree, hopefully this winter. If I get enough time, I plan to do it in French + German + English.
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Sorbus domestica seeds extracted in 2017 from 4 trees near Paris
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Sorbus domestica near Paris - fruits on the ground
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Sorbus domestica near Paris - about 40 pounds of fruits
 
Judith Browning
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Arnould, I've sent you a PM just in case you could send a few seeds to me in the states?

Thanks to both you and Philip for all of the information you've shared about this tree!

Philip, I found that the GRIN seeds, etc. are only given to those with a plan towards education...a wonderful thing but not in the works for me at the moment.  The program sounds great for anyone wanting to set up a permaculture education center though or had large projects on their landhttps://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/search.aspx?%C2%A0%C2%A0%C2%A0%C2%A0%C2%A0%C2%A0%C2%A0
 
Arnould Nazarian
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I have to add something because it was not clear.

Arnould is obviously my first name. "Cormier" is the name of this tree in most of France. In south of France the few who still know this tree can use the name "sorbier" instead.

Most of the people named Cormier in North America are descendants from a carpenter who moved there in mid 17th century see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cormier_(colonist) . There are thousands of places named after this tree in France, and thousands of people as well. That shows how important it was until about 150 years ago. I believe that during the european Middle Ages it was one of the most important fruit trees with meddlars and quinces (apples were imported during Renaissance). Also to mention: Europeans started mechanics with hard wood, the first choice was sorbus domestica for the screws in wine/oil presses as well as gear teeth in mills (what gave them time to conquer the world, but this is another story).

As I live near Paris in the northern part of France I use the name "cormier" for this tree. So if you search "Arnould cormier" in internet you will find a few dozen comments on forums and blog articles from me about this tree. But in French, that is.

Why I do that? Some fish, some visit museums, I look for sorbus domestica and all the informations I can find about it. It is interesting enough or I would have stopped years ago
 
steward
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Arnould, I have sent you a PM. I would love to try some of these .

What is the coldest climate/zone that you have seen them grow in?

Plants for a future lists it here.
 
Arnould Nazarian
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Hello Miles, I've seen your PM, no problem.

Litterature says that true service trees were brought to northern part of Europe by the Romans. They are adapted to quite dry and hot climate. I have seen pictures of true service trees in Spain were it is the only green spot around. But my experience is that it also very much likes good soils and water. I have found a tree in a park in the surroundings of Paris that delivers the biggest known fruits in the world to date (see the picture above, the 15 fruits on the balance). This particular tree grows near a pond, maybe only 1m above. The point is that in a dry environment the slowly growing true service trees have less competition for light.

But if it is warm enough from the second half of may to august to build fruits true service trees also support cold climates.

Here visakoivu has true service trees in the Black Forrest, Germany, at an altitude of about 600m.

http://www.greffer.net/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2696&start=57

Here on the picture the comment says that it is a true service in the highest village of France at an altitude of 2040 m. That tree is certainly oriented towards south and protected from north winds. I hope I'll find it some day because I am not completely sure that it is a sorbus domestica, could be an error and be a sorbus aucuparia.

http://www.greffer.net/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=368&start=43

Here more pictures of true service trees in the Alps (wikipedia indicates min altitudes for Fouillouse = 599 m and Champcella = 900 m) :

http://www.florealpes.com/fiche_cormier.php

And last but not least another true service tree planted in 2000 not from a seed but from a portion of roots after the old tree was thrown down by a storm in december 1999. The articles say that the original tree came from Russia in the 50's for an experiment to select fruit trees to be planted in one of the coldest places in Germany. Obviously it grew well, and the new one also grows very well at an altitude of about 700m. The picture shows my mother indicating 2m height in october 2016. That tree had some fruits, but on October 12th they were still green and very hard.

https://www.suedkurier.de/region/schwarzwald-baar-heuberg/niedereschach/Exotischer-Baum-fuehlt-sich-in-Niedereschach-wohl;art372527,6440628
http://www.schwarzwaelder-bote.de/inhalt.niedereschach-seltener-baum-waechst-im-neubaugebiet.61f922d7-b19e-4653-8d78-d448aa2f6bdc.html

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pollinator
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We have three of these here in our park but the fruit is not of good quality . They are certainly reasonable sized trees and I am sure I could get fruit if only I was tall enough ( they are about 5m tall ) . Plus the birds and squirrels get them before they blet as it does not get that cold here in Anjou .
David
 
Arnould Nazarian
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Hello David,

To pick the fruits on the trees is not the proper way to get them. When they fall, the fruits are still very hard and full of tannins. I never saw any animals or humans eat them just after they fell, unless there is no wind for days and days and they blet on the trees. In fact I believe that tannins at high levels are a poison, and that is why the fruits are always good and never attacked by animals when they fall.

Once the fruits fell on the ground, they should be picked up at least every 2/3 days. Then they must be stored for about one week with absolutely no need for low temperatures, on the contrary, they can be kept a little bit longer in the fridge. After a few days but rather sooner than later the fruits change colour, they become brown and soft, but inside they keep a very pleasant yellow colour. They must be sorted out every couple of days because some blet faster than others. It is a race.

At this point you are rewarded as they are excellent to eat raw, or to transform into marmelade, cider, eau-de-vie, to dry etc... In fact with sorbus domestica fruits you can do all the same as with apples or pears, but within about a 2/4 weeks time frame only. And that is one of their main drawbacks, maybe the reason why they were displaced by apple trees. However today the pulp can be extracted and deepfrozen to be transformed later during (cold) winters (there is some 70% of pulp in the bletted fruits). That is exactly how Sylvie does it for the second year:

https://www.entreboisetvergers.fr/

If interested there are other suppliers of marmelade made of true service trees fruits in Germany (google Speierling Marmelade).
 
David Livingston
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I have thought of making a "cider " from the fruits at some point as I have been told that's an Austrian tradition . Mind you cider is so cheap and good here in France I am in no hurry
As for the water of life I have not asked but I suspect the regulations covering such production in France may be .... Complex and expensive
David
 
Miles Flansburg
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After looking at the leaves of these trees they seem to resemble some of the nitrogen fixing tree species out there. These trees wouldn't happen to be a nitrogen fixer would they?
 
David Livingston
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I dont think so miles as they are in the apple / rose family
 
Arnould Nazarian
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Nitrogen fixer like robinia, an invasive tree here in Europe? No, I really don't think so. In the beginning, because robinia, I thought that there were true service trees everywhere. But I soon learned the differences! And I can confirm, true service trees are very rare.

AFAIK in France, to do some eau-de-vie by yourself you have to pay taxes twice. First you must own or maybe lend a real "verger" , an orchard, which is more expensive than other land. Then you must pay for what you produce. If both conditions are true then you can produce 10 liters at a "bargain" price for yourself.

For those reading french there is a book still commercial about true service trees (click on "voir l'ouvrage"):

http://www.sepenes.fr/pages/page-12-arbrescormier.html

The author organises a conference about sorbus domestica in Dancé, département Orne, salle des fêtes, at 2.30pm, Saturday 25. November 2017. I will be there.

And for those reading german, there is also a book about sorbus domestica, it is now a free .pdf file (click on "hier"):

http://www.foerderkreis-speierling.de/content/speierling_pflanze.php
 
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