Service Tree (formerly spelled servise, from Lat. cerevisia, beer, a fermented drink having been made from the fruit), a European tree belonging to that section of the genus pyrus which includes the mountain ashes. The true service tree, P. sorbus (or sorbus domestica), is barely hardy in England; it is most abundant in France and Italy, and occurs in northern Africa and western Asia. This and the mountain ash were placed by Linnaeus in the genus sorbus (Lat. sorbere, to drink down, in allusion to their use for making a beverage), and they are sometimes in England called sorbs; but later botanists, finding that the chief difference between these trees and the apples and pears consisted in the former having compound leaves and flowers in broad cymes, included them all in the genus pyrus. The service tree is long-lived, some specimens being thought to be 1,000 years old; it grows from 20 to 60 ft. high, with a large pyramidal head; the bark is smooth except on old trees, where it is rough and full of cracks; the leaves have six or more pairs of serrate leaflets, with an odd one; the flowers are cream-colored, and the fruit, which is much larger than in any of the mountain ashes, is when ripe greenish brown, with a reddish tinge; eight or more varieties of fruit have been described, but the principal ones are the apple-shaped and pear-shaped, both about the size of a common gooseberry.
Its chief value is in its wood, which is considered to be harder and heavier than that of any other European tree, weighing when dry 72 lbs. 2 oz. to the cubic foot, having a compact grain and reddish tinge, and taking a very fine polish; when not properly seasoned it twists and splits badly; it is much used for screws to wine presses, cogs to wheels, rollers, pulleys, and rules; and for the coarser kinds of engraving it is one of the best substitutes for box wood. The fruit is sometimes eaten, but only when it is ready to decay; when recent it is very acid and austere; its use to make a fermented drink is mentioned by both Virgil and Pliny in Brittany a cider or perry is made from it which is said to be good, though having a very unpleasant smell. - The wild service tree of England is P. torminalis; and the name is sometimes given to the European and the American mountain ash, P. aucuparia and P. Americana. (See Ash).
Service Tree (Pyrus sorbus).