Whitebeam trees identification

Whitebeams, Rowans and Service Trees are all members of the Sorbus family. There are 44 species and 8 hybrids in this family in Britain. Some of them are very rare and endangered but some, such as the  Common Whitebeam and the Swedish Whitebeam are frequently encountered in rural and urban environments.

Whitebeam trees identification – Common Whitebeam and Swedish Whitebeam – leaf colour and shape, white flower clusters and red berries.


Common Whitebeam tree

The Common Whitebeam is native to the south of England and south and central Europe. It grows best on chalk and limestone. It has been planted as an ornamental tree in many streets and gardens.

Common Whitebeam leaf underside

The Common Whitebeam leaf is oval-shaped and toothed but its main feature is that the underside of the leaf is covered in white hairs.

Common Whitebeam flowers

Flowers in May. The flowers are small and in clusters like this. They open towards the end of May

Common Whitebeam fruit

The fruit is bright red by the end of September.

Tree in April.

Close-up of the terminal bud showing the hairs that fringe the bud-scales.

Lateral bud.

Close-up of fruit in December.


Swedish Whitebeam tree

The Swedish Whitebeam is a medium-sized deciduous tree native to Sweden, the Baltic States and northern Poland. It is believed to be a hybrid with 3 parents – the Common Rowan, the Wild Service and another Whitebeam. It is a hardy tree and has been planted in parks and streets and in some areas has become naturalised.

Swedish Whitebeam leaf

The leaf is lobed and has 6 to 9 pairs of veins. The leaf is pale green underneath, unlike the Common Whitebeam

Swedish Whitebeam flowers

Flowers in mid May. The flowers are clustered in the form of a corymb. Clusters are larger than those of the Common Whitebeam.

Swedish Whitebeam fruit

Fruit in September

Row of trees February.

Terminal bud is dark red-brown and has white hairs.

Lateral buds are alternate

Old fruit may be still on the tree in February.