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A laxly branched shrub or small tree; young branchlets hairy. Leaves up to 31⁄4 in. long and 2 in. wide, variable in shape, some undivided, others pinnately cut or lobed at the base after the fashion of Sorbus hybrida, the terminal part of the leaf obtuse at the apex, sometimes acute or acuminate, especially on strong shoots, the lateral leaflets or lobes obtuse, glabrous above, hairy beneath at flowering-time. Flowers white, about 3⁄8 in. wide, borne in May or early June in small corymbs, the inflorescence-branches and receptacles densely white hairy. Fruits dark purple, globular or broad-ellipsoid, about 3⁄8 in. wide.
A hybrid of Sorbus aucuparia, of which the Aronia parent is uncertain, in commerce by the early 19th century and formerly known as ‘Pyrus spuria pendula’. It has never been common, however, and is now rare – deservedly so, for it has scant ornamental value. It gives some autumn colour but it is inferior to the aronias in that respect, and in its fruits, which are not freely produced. This is not the sorbaronia described in the 7th edition as × S. hybrida (and in earlier editions as Pyrus spuria); for this see under × S. sorbifolia below.
note. The nomenclatural type of × S. hybrida is Pyrus hybrida Moench, described in 1785 from a plant that had been raised some six years earlier at Wilhelmshöhe (Lustschloss Weissenstein), near Cassel, Germany. The seed-parent was ‘the arbutus-leaved pear’ and the pollen-parent was considered by Moench to be Sorbus aucuparia. The seed-parent could have been either Aronia arbutifolia or A. melanocarpa, since the ‘Pyrus arbutifolia’ of Moench’s time covered both species. On the other hand he described the fruits as red when ripe, which is what one would expect from a cross between the red-fruited A. arbutifolia and the rowan. However, the cultivated plant as described above, which is × S. hybrida sensu Rehder and other authorities, had dark purple fruits – an unexpected though not impossible result from a cross between two red-fruited species. Dippel, who described the cultivated form under the name S. heterophylla Reichenb., suggested A. melanocarpa as the Aronia parent, but that is a very glabrous species and ought, on the face of it, to produce a sorbaronia a good deal less hairy than the cultivated × S. hybrida.
× S. sorbifolia (Poir.) Schneid. Mespilus sorbifolia Poir.; Pyrus sorbifolia (Poir.) Wats.; P. spuria sens. Loud., not (Pers.) Ser.; Sorbus × sargentii Dipp.; S. × sorbifolia (Poir.) Hedl.; Pyrus × mixta Fern. – Similar to the preceding but almost glabrous in all its parts, the leaves and leaflets or lobes more sharply pointed, and the inflorescence-branches more slender. A probable hybrid between Sorbus americana and Aronia melanocarpa, described in 1816 from a plant cultivated in France but distributed earlier in Britain by the nurseryman Lee of Hammersmith. Towards the end of the last century the same hybrid was raised in Germany from seeds of A. melanocarpa received from Prof. Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum and was named Sorbus × sargentii by Dippel; this form was later distributed by Späth’s nursery, Berlin. × S. sorbifolia gives quite good autumn colour but is very rare in gardens. Some of the leaves on strong shoots are very like those of Sorbus × thuringiaca in shape.
The sorbaronia described in the 7th edition of this work as × S. hybrida (and in earlier editions as Pyrus spuria) appears to be one received at Kew from Späth’s nursery, Berlin, towards the end of the last century as Pyrus hybrida. Judging from herbarium specimens it was very near to × S. sorbifolia but with the young leaves cobwebbed beneath and the rachis of the inflorescence downy, especially near the base. A similar sorbaronia had, however, been in commerce in Britain and Germany by 1880, as Pyrus spuria, which seems to have been a catch-all name for the semi-pinnate members of this genus.