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Sorbus

Mountain Ash
Rosaceae
Deciduous, Shrubs, Trees, Decorative fruit or berries

These natives of mountainous areas are valued for their showy flowers and showier fruit. Blossoms are grouped in broad, flat clusters that are scattered over the foliage canopy in spring; they develop into hanging clusters of small, berrylike fruit that colors up in late summer or early fall. Most species have red or orange-red fruit, but white, pink, and golden forms are occasionally available. Birds feed on the fruit, but usually not until after the leaves have fallen. Foliage is typically finely cut and somewhat fernlike, though some less widely planted species have undivided leaves. Some mountain ashes have good fall color. Plants need good, well-drained soil and some winter chill. Cankers are a problem for trees under stress. Watch for fireblight. Good small garden or street trees, though the fruit can make a mess on paved surfaces.

Sorbus americana (photo courtesy of David Cavagnaro)
Sorbus americana (photo courtesy of David Cavagnaro)

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Sorbus americana

Tree or shrub, from eastern North America. Grows to 10–30 ft. tall and wide. Dark green leaves with paler undersides reach 10 in. long and consist of 11 to 17 leaflets; turn yellow in fall. Orange-red fruit. This species is very hardy and tolerates damp soil, but it is not the choicest of mountain ashes. ‘Red Cascade’ is an attractive variety with an oval crown and compact growth to 16 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide.

Sorbus aucuparia
Sorbus aucuparia

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Sorbus aucuparia

Tree, native to Europe to western Asia and Siberia; naturalized in North America. Grows to 20–40 ft. tall (or taller) and 15–25 ft. wide. Sharply rising branches form a dense, oval to round crown. Leaves are 5–9 in. long, with 9–15 leaflets; they are dull green above, gray green below, turning tawny yellow to reddish in autumn. Orange-red fruit.

Sorbus scopulina

Shrub or tree, native to western North America. Grows to 3–15 ft. tall and wide, often with reddish bark. Leaves are to 2 1/2 in. long, with up to 15 deeply toothed leaflets; shiny dark green above, paler beneath. Orange-red fall color. Orange to bright red fruit.

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