These are small trees, quite unusual in the wild, and many imported specimens have been planted in towns and parks, along roads etc. If you want the truly native tree you may have to search – it is most common in the south of the country. Whitebeam leaves have a pale under surface, which explains its name, while the cream flowers ripen to red berries. The hard pale wood was traditionally used for small furniture such as the legs of stools.
There are several whitebeam species native to Ireland that may be found in wild woods or cliffs where they have escaped grazing. It can also be found in hedges. The most widespread is Sorbus aria, the common European whitebeam, which is most frequent in Co. Galway. Also found is S. rupicola, especially on cliffs, and S. devoniensis, and its distribution is restricted to Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford.
The distribution of a further three species is limited to certain parts of the country – S. latifolia, with broadleaves; S. anglica, which is found only in Co. Kerry and the only one unique to Ireland, S. hibernica, found on limestone across the midlands and in Glenveagh, Co. Donegal.