Origin and distribution
Sorbus is a genus of about 150 species, commonly known as mountain ash, European mountain ash, rowan, European rowan, white beam, belongs to family Rosaceae. It is a native of Europe and Asia. It is tolerant to cold and often found at high altitude mountains of UK up to 1000 m and in France up to 2000 m. S. aucuparia subsp. aucuparia occurs in south to central Spain, central Italy and northernmost Greece. S. aucuparia subsp. fenenkiana is reported to be endemic to Bulgaria. About 21 species of Sorbus are known to occur in India, particularly in western temperate Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim at an altitude 2700-4000 m. Locally, it is called as battal. The fruits of most of the species are edible and also have medicinal value.
Amongst the 21 Sorbus species three species are of importance in terms of edibility but some of the species that are occurring in India include- Sorbus aucuparia L.: It is a small to medium sized deciduous tree of 8-10 m height, found in the western Himalayas from Kashmir to Kumaon (Uttarakhand) at an altitude of 3500-4000 m MSL. The leaves are pinnate, 10-22 cm long and 6-12 cm broad, with 9-15 leaflets, coarsely serrated margin and hairy. The bark is smooth, silvery grey of young trees, becoming scaly pale-grey-brown. The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in a terminal corymb. Flowers are creamy-white to pink. Fruits are globose, 6-9 mm diameter, green at first, ripening bright red in late summer and containing up to 2-8 small seeds. Fruits are edible.
Sorbus cuspidata (Spach) Hedlund
It occurs in the temperate Himalayas from Garhwal (Uttarakhand) to Sikkim at altitudes 2700-3000 m MSL. It is a deciduous tree of 7-9 m tall. Branches are purple brown when young and greyish-brown when old. Leaves are simple, anceolate, serrate margin and powdery white beneath. Flowers occur in densely woolly corymbs, white, 20-25 stamens, slightly shorter than petals, and purple anthers. Fruits are globose, dark red, 3-5 locules with many conspicuous lenticles. Ripe fruits are eaten.
It is distributed to the temperate Himalayas from Kashmir to Kumaon(Uttaranchal) at an altitude from 2300-3000 m MSL and it is called as nepalo or nepala in Kumaon. It is a moderate size deciduous tree with white-woolly flower cluster. Leaves are simple-ovate or oblong ovate. Flowering occurs in November month. Fruits are slightly large, borne in bunches, globose or pyriform and red. Ripe fruits are edible.
Nutritional value and uses
Sorbus contains sugar (5.5-7.4%), soluble solids (18.0-24.2%), titratable organic acids (1.5-3.8%), ascorbic acid (22.3-98.3%) and carotenoids (4.0-22.2%). 10 Fruits are edible and used in making jam, jelly, syrups and juices. Fruits are depurative, astringent, diuretic and used in haemorrhoids. The infusion of leaves is used in a cough and bronchitis. Wood is used in making boxes.
It grows well in sandy loam to clay soils. The soil should be well drained, but moist. It prefers a soil reaction ranging from 6-8 pH. In sunny open position, fruiting becomes heavy. Propagation of Sorbus plants is usually done by seeds. They are collected from well ripen fruits and extracted, cleaned, dry and then placed for cold stratification for 14-16 weeks and planted in early spring. One year seedlings are put into the permanent site. Generally, seedlings are slow in initial growth up to one year. Since, Sorbus species occurs naturally, hence no specific package and practices are reported. However, same cultural operations can be followed as pear.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla