True Service Tree
The true service tree is a deciduous, broad-leaved tree with pinnate leaves, rather rowan-like in shape.
Its flowers, which appear in late April and early May, are pale pink in colour and its fruits are apple or pear shaped, approx. 2-3cm long and green, brown or reddish in colour.
The true service tree, which is mainly found in southern Europe in Mediterranean climates, is very rare in the UK. Until 1983 only one single tree believed to be native in the UK was known, from a site at Wyre in Worcestershire.
In 1983, many were found growing in Wales on a steep limestone cliff at Porthkerry country park. In 1993 true service tree was found at a second site in the Vale. Since then, four individuals have been found at sites in Gloucestershire.
It has been estimated that the two sites in the Vale of Glamorgan hold approximately 90% of all known UK trees. Porthkerry is thought to have around 80-90 plants.
The true service tree is under constant threat of erosion – the soil it grows in is very poor and landslips often occur. Those at Porthkerry country park are also threatened by Holm oak – an introduced species that is out-competing the true service tree. One of the projects at the Park this year is the removal of the Holm oak.
Vit Hrdousek, Project Coordinator for Tree For Europe
, presented Porthkerry with a sapling grafted off a Czech tree which is over 400 years old. The tree has been planted in the parks orchard.