Sunday, 27 December 2009

Martin Luther and the wild service tree

The Lutheran Church, the Evangelische Landeskirche, in Württemberg, Germany announced in October 2009 their intention to encourage the planting of wild service trees in appropriate places in their area as well as to work to conserve the noctule bat and two scarce species of butterfly.

The Bishop of Württemberg, Dr. h. c. Otfried July, in a speech on 8 October 2009, said that wild services were a sign of our responsibility for our fellow created beings as well as being part of the church’s biodiversity protection project and a symbol of sustainability. He opened the campaign by planting a wild service tree.

The wild service tree has an interesting link with Martin Luther. In 1526 Luther asked in a letter to his friend Johannes Agricola if he could be sent some wild service berries (Elsbeer). This is the earliest recorded use of the word Elsbeer (now normally spelt Elsbeere) in German. Luther wrote in Latin: “remittas oro , ut mespila minuscula, teutonice Elsbeer.” (I beg you to send some of those little medlars called Elsbeer in German).

According to the Lutheran church in Württemberg Luther knew the fruits well and described them as ‘exquisite’. He was also aware of their medicinal properties and wanted some for his wife Katharina von Bora (July, 2009).


July, O. (2009) Speech to mark the Württemberg Evangelische Landeskirche’s participation in the Diversity Action Plan.

Luther, Martin (1526) Ed. Wilhelm Martin Lebrechte De Wette. Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken: Vollständig aus den verschiedenen ... Vol.3. Berlin, 1827.

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