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The White Beam

UK Garden Centre - Information about the White Beam tree

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Family Rosaceae
Sorbus Aria

Owing to its very local occurrence, the White Beam, though widely distributed, is one of the less known of our trees and shrubs. It comes into both these categories according to the situation of its growth, for whilst in exposed mountainous localities a specimen of mature age may be no more than four or five feet high, and of bush-like growth, under the lee of a wood, and on calcareous soil, it will be an erect and graceful tree of pyramidal form, whose apex is forty feet from the ground.
In its early years growth is tolerably rapid, but at the age of ten it slackens pace, and after attaining its majority its progress is very slow. The bark is smooth and little subject to cracks and fissures. The branches, except a few of the lowest, all have an upward tendency. Its wood is fine-grained, very hard, white, but inclined to yellow.
In the typical form the leaves are a broad oval in shape, with the edges coarsely toothed or cut into lobes, the upper side smooth, and the lower side clothed with white cottony down, the almost straight nerves strongly marked.
The white flowers, which appear in May or June, are only half an inch across, and gathered into loose clusters. They are succeeded by nearly round scarlet fruits, half an inch in diameter, known in Lancashire and Westmorland as Chess-apples. These are very sharp and rough to the taste, but when kept like Medlars, till they begin to decay, are far from unpleasant.
This form is only found from the Midlands to the South of England as far west as Devon, and in Ireland.
There are several closely allied species differing mainly in the leaves. Sorbus latifolia, also known as Pyrus latifolia, has broader leaves, divided into wedge-shaped lobes, the cottony down beneath being grey and the nerves less prominent. This species is rare in hilly woods. Sorbus intermedia, also known as Pyrus scandica, has the leaves more deeply divided into rounded or oblong lobes. It is usually found as a cultivated tree.
Other names for the White Beam include Henapple, Cumberland Hawthorn, Hoar Withy, Quick Beam, and Whipcrop.
It should be noted that S. Aria must not be called the White Beam-tree, for the word beam is the Saxon equivalent for tree.


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