This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Fruits of White Beam have been found in Preglacial beds at Pake-field in Suffolk. It grows on Roman ruins at Silchester. To-day it is a typical member of the flora of the North Temperate Zone, found in Europe, North Africa, N. and W. Asia. In Great Britain it is local, and is absent from Cornwall but found in the Channel province; and it is absent from Essex in the Thames province, and E. Norfolk, Hunts, and Northants in Anglia; it is absent from Worcester and Warwick in the Severn province; and in Wales occurs only in Glamorgan, Radnor, Carmarthen, Montgomery, Carnarvon, Denbigh. It is absent in Flint, S. Lincs, and in the Mersey district is absent entirely, and is not found in S.E. or N.E. York, nor in Northumberland, nor in the Isle of Man. Elsewhere in Scotland it is found in Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Stirling, West Perth, S. Aberdeen, Cantire, W. Sutherland. It is found in Yorks at a height of 1500 ft.
The White Beam is a woodland tree which is found very commonly on chalky and calcareous soils in the south of England and elsewhere, being planted in copses in some districts where it is doubtfully indigenous.
It is a tall, deciduous tree, with a main stem, with numerous ascending branches, which are closely ramified. The buds are erect, a protection against cold. The leaves are oval-elliptic, with deeply cut unequal serratures, below entire, whilst at the end the lobes are more marked. The leaves are downy underneath, a character of importance here, and smooth above. The cottony down is a protection to the stomata, the undersides being often turned upwards.
The flowers are white, in lax corymbs. The fruit is subglobose and yellow.
The tree grows to a height of 40 ft. The flowers are in bloom in May and June. The White Beam is a perennial deciduous tree, and can be increased by grafting.
The flowers are large and conspicuous, and arranged much on the same plan as in the Rowan, where they are proterogynous. Though cross-pollination will normally take place, if insects are absent then the plant will pollinate itself. The honey is half-concealed and secreted at the base of the ovary.
The fruit, a pome, is edible, fleshy and scarlet when ripe, and is dispersed by birds.
This tree is a lime-loving plant, and addicted to a lime soil in its native habitats, but where it is planted it may grow on sand soil or even on clay.
A moth, Lyonetia clerckella, feeds upon it.
Pyrus, Pliny, is from the Latin for pear tree.
White Beam is called Hen-apple, Beam Tree, Chess-apple, Cumberland Hawthorn, Hoar Withy, Lot-tree, Mulberry, Sea Ouler, Pear Tree, Wild Cowbin, Quick Beam, White Rice, Serviceberry, Whip-beam, Whipcrop, Whitebeam, Whiteleaf Tree.
The name White Rice is given to the White Beam because of the undersides of the leaves. It is called Whipbeam because the plough-boy makes a horsewhip of it.
The wood is hard and close-grained, and has been used for making yokes. When mills were more numerous the wheels were made of White Beam wood. After there has been a frost the fruit mellows, and is eatable.
An alcoholic spirit is yielded by it after fermentation. The berries have been used for jam.
Essential Specific Characters: 105. Pyrus Aria, Ehrh. - Tree, leaves ovate, deeply irregularly serrate, white, downy below, those of flower-shoot oval, lobes deepest near end of leaf, flowers white, corymbose, fruit red, subglobose.