IX: Service Tree

A closer look at the rowan tree, the family superhero.

nonidi, the 29th of Brumaire, Year CCXXXI
A service tree with fruit. Photo by BotBln via Wikimedia Commons.

Good morning. Today is nonidi, the 29th of Brumaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le cormier, a domesticated version of the checker tree.

We've already met this tree's wild cousin, so a quick note about the English name, which is detrimental to the fruit's SEO for sure: it has nothing to do with "service" as in "to serve." It's a direct borrow of the Latin sorbus, a word that means ... this tree. It doesn't appear to be related to the verb for "to drink," and its antecedents are just ... not there. This tree may be obscure in modern times, but apparently in the ancient Mediterranean, it was important and common enough to just be what it be.

Of all the sorbus trees out there, the one that's the most famous is undoubtedly the rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia). It fends off witches! It saved Thor's life! It can fly! From its signature red berries to its wood that's the perfect hardness for carving insignia, the rowan tree is tailor-made to join the superheroes of the Marvel or DC universes.