Sorbo - Sorbus

The Sorbo of the birders

The genus Sorbus has numerous species of large shrubs and small trees, originating in Europe, from the entire Mediterranean area and Asia, some species are native to the new world. These are shrubs of easy cultivation, with deciduous leaves; the leaves, pinnate, are made up of small oval leaflets, generally with a serrated edge, are dark green, and take on all the tones of yellow and orange before falling in autumn. Some species have instead simple, oval, glossy leaves; there are also rowans with silvery-gray foliage.

Rowan flowers and fruits

In late spring they produce small white star-shaped flowers, together with umbrella-shaped inflorescences, sometimes pendulous; the flowers are followed by small roundish fruits, with the acid pulp, very rich in vitamins and mineral salts. At one time the rowans were cultivated precisely for the fruits, which ripen in autumn, and were one of the few available sources of vitamin C, especially in the areas of central and northern Europe and Asia. Nowadays, small sorbus apples are consumed only by animals, which can be found available even in the cold winter months.
One of the most famous species, sorbus aucuparia, is called rowan of birds, given the use that is made of it as a bird call: its small colored fruits attract birds in the autumn and winter months.

How to cultivate it

Sorbus is certainly not a demanding plant; there are many species, although the most widespread in Italy are all native, therefore they well bear the climate of our peninsula. They prefer fairly sunny locations, given that in total shade they tend not to bloom, and are content with any terrain, becoming luxuriant even on rocky or stony soils. They don't like water stagnation, so we avoid very heavy or wet substrates.
Place the young plants in the garden, as they are not afraid of the cold. For the first two years we take care not to leave the soil completely dry for long periods of time, especially in the warmer months. In winter we can leave the plant without watering, since it loses its leaves and enters a period of vegetative rest; the young plants are in any case mulching, so that frost does not reach any very superficial roots.
In the following years, when the plant is well adapted to the garden, generally it does not need care, except for some sporadic summer watering, in case of great heat or very prolonged drought.
Pruning is generally not necessary, as the plant is not particularly fast in development; at the end of winter let us limit ourselves to removing the damaged or excessively weak branches.

Sorbus - Sorbus: The uses of rowan

Although today sorbets are hardly consumed as a fruit, we remind you that they are edible, even if they have a slightly acid taste; in some areas of Italy they are still used today to produce compotes to be kept for the winter. In some European countries, rowan jam is also produced, and small apples are used to flavor cider.
Sorbus is also used in herbal medicine, in the form of tincture or essential oil the protective properties of the veins are exploited, in cases of circulation problems of any kind, such as varicose veins or hemorrhoids. The dye is prepared with the newly swollen buds.
The fruits instead contain a lot of vitamin C, they are then exploited in cases of deficiency of this vitamin.
In European legends the sorb is a very important plant, which protects those who own a specimen, but also those who simply decide to hang a bundle or a garland at the door; this plant is said to drive away evil spirits.