Thursday, 21. February 2013

Tree of the Year 2011: The Wild Service Tree

Whether you use its wood for filigree woodwork or resistant furniture, or you use its berries to relief stomach aches: The Wild Service Tree is a useful beauty from the old days.

"But there is nothing useless in nature, not even uselessness itself; nothing ever stepped into this universe, which wouldn't have its proper place in it."

Michel de Montaigne: Essais, 1580

The "Dr. Silvius Wodarz Foundation" and its consulting committee based in Marktredwitz and Tharandt, are facing the task of spreading the knowledge about trees in Germany and by this drawing the attention to those trees, which are unknown or at least have slipped somewhat into obscurity.

Therefore since 1989 every year in October one is elected as the next years TREE OF THE YEAR and in 2011 the Wild Service Tree got chosen. In German this tree is called Elsbeere and is also affectionately known as the Pretty Else. She was shortlisted more than once and now finally, this ecologically valuable deciduous tree belonging to the genus of haws, won the title.

Apart from the botanical term Sorbus torminalis, this tree carries plenty of names, which witness a time, when humans were at the mercy of natures heal-ing powers. For example, in German this tree is also called Darmbeere or Ruhrbirne, which roughly translated means as much as bowel berry and dysen-tery pear. One can easily guess, that the fresh or dried berries of this tree were used to cure not only nausea and diarrhoea, but also nasty cough.

The Wild Service Tree can mainly be found all around Europe and here particu-larly in the south-eastern territories up to the Caucasus. Its distribution reaches from North Africa in the south to Asia Minor in the east and within Germany one can find it approximately as far up as the winegrowing areas reach.
In Bavaria, the Wild Service Tree is predominant in Lower Franconia and any other area, where it finds the nutritious lime soil it needs to grow up to 82 ft. It starts to blossom in may or june and bears fruit in september, before one can admire its intense golden hue in autumn. Some of these trees get 200, or even 300 years old - hence they accommodate abundant caterpillars and insects throughout their lifetime, which on the other hand feed several local species of owls.
Last but not least, the Wild Service Tree carries a treasure: its wood is extraor-dinary strong, flexible, heavy, though and therefore very precious. In former times, this timber was especially valued by turners, carpenters and wain-wrights. They also used it to manufacture fine woodworks as slide rules and because of these qualities similar to pear wood, another of its plenty names is Schweizer Birnbaum – meaning the Swiss Pear Tree. At present research is conducted, to rediscover the qualities of the Wild Service Tree for modern industrial use.