Wild service tree

Wild Service Tree

©Philip Precey

Wild service tree

Scientific name: Sorbus torminalis
An inconspicuous tree for much of the year, the Wild service tree comes to life in spring, when it displays pretty, white blossom, and autumn, when its Maple-like leaves turn bright crimson.

Species information


Height: 10-25m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Wild service tree was once widespread, if seldom abundant, in the forests of England and Wales. But, as these were cleared, it became rarer and is now confined to ancient woodlands and hedges, such as those of Royal Hunting Forests, particularly on heavy clay soils. An inconspicuous tree for much of the year, its white blossom in spring and crimson leaves in autumn give it away.

How to identify

The Wild service tree has jagged, palmate leaves (a little like Maple leaves), white flowers and small, apple-like fruit.


Widespread in England, but not common.

Did you know?

The Wild service tree is also known as the 'Chequers tree' and its fruits were once regularly used to make alcohol. Many pubs and inns are also called Chequers (as well as the Prime Minister's country residence); however, it's unclear whether the inns gave their name to the fruits or the fruits to the inns!

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for woodland plants.