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Bean (1981) discussed this taxon under the name Sorbus graeca in a footnote to his article on Sorbus umbellata (now Aria umbellata); see below. We have created this hybrid article – Bean’s text under the correct modern name, with appropriate synonymy – whilst we await sponsorship to enable a full revision of this genus to be written. We are re-organising the Sorbus sensu lato articles in this way to enable a new revision of Sorbus sensu stricto to commence in 2023, and to bring the nomenclature of this complex group of plants up to date in line with modern treatments.
TC, September 2023.
This species, often considered to be no more than a variety of S. umbellata, differs in the more numerously toothed leaves with up to nine pairs of veins, more thinly and grey-hairy beneath. The leaves in the cultivated form are obovate, rounded at the apex, cuneate at the base, of rather thick texture, about 21⁄2 in. long. Fruits dark red, with very few scattered lenticels, globose or broadly oblong-ellipsoid, about 1⁄2 in. long, ripening in September.
Despite its name, S. graeca is of wide distribution, from Iraq, the Lebanon and the Caucasus through Asia Minor and S.E. Europe to eastern Central Europe, west to Sicily and N. Africa. It was in cultivation in Britain as early as 1830 but the present stock is believed to derive from an introduction by E. K. Balls from Anatolia in the 1930s. The description of the foliage given above is taken from the cultivated form; in wild plants there is variation in the shape and relative width of the leaves.
In the Winkworth Arboretum this species and S. umbellata were planted by Dr Fox side by side and make an interesting and instructive pair. At least in these two trees there is a marked difference in habit as well as in the other characters mentioned, S. graeca being of rather fastigiate habit in contrast to the bushy habit of S. umbellata.
Considered as a variety of S. umbellata this sorbus would take the name S. umbellata var. cretica, but S. graeca is its correct name at the specific level.