Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sorbus on the Isle of Man

The story of Sorbus in the Isle of Man is a curious one.  Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, seems to be common and indigenous and there are a number of garden escape species.  For a while it was thought that a tree referable to Sorbus admonitor, or Sorbus devoniensis (both Devon specialities) grew there, but I think this is now regarded as an example of Sorbus croceocarpa, one of the aliens.

The wild service, Sorbus torminalis, has not been recorded from the Isle of Man, although it does have a local Manx name

There is an entry for the wild service in the Manx Wiki:        Of interest if anyone wants to see a sample of the Manx language.  The wild service is called 'billey greimmey'.  'Billey' simply means tree, but the word 'greimmey' has these meanings: grasp, seize, grab, clutch, catch, hold, snap, stick, bite, lock in, stitch, snatching, adhere, snatch, jam, attach, stitch up, pin on, nab, gripping, seizing, grip, adhesion, tooth, fishing tackle, adherence (of person), monopolization.

Perhaps 'billey greimmey' is a Manxification of  'griping-fruited' service tree', one of the many English names for the wild service.  Or maybe 'the tasty bite tree'.  I suspect it is a relatively recent translation from English.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Mountain ash alchemy

The Finns are at it again.  Not content with making an intoxicating drink from Sorbus berries, they are now using an extract of the leaves to obtain gold a silver nano particles:

Bioprospective of Sorbus aucuparia leaf extract in development of silver and gold nanocolloids

by Shashi Prabha Dubey, Manu Lahtinen, Heikki Särkkä and Mika Sillanpää in Science Direct (2010).


At the present time the bioprospective field is a  dynamic area of research. The rapid biosynthesis of silver and gold nanoparticles without using toxic chemicals is reported here. Sorbus aucuparia is omnipresent in Europe. The aqueous leaves extract of the plant were used as reducing agent for the synthesis of silver and gold nanoparticles from their salt solutions. The synthesized nanoparticles were spherical, triangular and hexagonal in shape with an average size of 16 and 18 nm for silver and gold, respectively. Different extract quantities, metal concentrations, temperatures and contact times were investigated to find their effect on nanoparticles synthesis. The resulting silver and gold nanoparticles were characterized by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), UV–vis spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The concentration of residual silver and gold ions was measured by Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) spectroscopy. Silver and gold nanoparticle suspensions gave maximum UV–vis absorbance at 446 and 560 nm, respectively. The XRD data illustrated characteristic diffraction patterns of the elemental silver and gold phases and the average size of the crystallites were estimated from the peak profiles by Scherrer method. FTIR spectra of the leaf extract before and after the development of nanoparticles were determined to allow identification of possible functional groups responsible for the conversion of metal ions to metal nanoparticles.

Russian rowan berries

Russian Food Direct offer 50 gram cartons of rowan berries (presumably dried) mainly, it seems, for their health giving properties.

On their web site it says of this species:

Its fruit contains carotene, ascorbic acid (up to 92 mg%), vitamin E, essential oil, malic, citric acid, bitter and tannins, sugars, pigments, alcohol sorbitol, antibacterial substances.

Sorbus fruits are very rich in vitamin C and other vitamins and important substances. Sorbus fruits are used as polyvitaminic substance. The ripe berries furnish an acidulous and astringent gargle for sore throats and inflamed tonsils. For their anti-scorbutic properties, they have been used in scurvy. The astringent infusion is used as a remedy in haemorrhoids and strangury. In herbal medicine, a decoction of the bark is given for diarrhoea and used as a vaginal injection in leucorrhoea.

I am surprised they are not better known for these medicinal purposes.

Sorbus drink on YouTube

There are some clips on YouTube from Finland about their somewhat dodgy Sorbus drink.  One does not have to have any knowledge of Finnish to appreciate the slightly sleazy atmosphere with which the drink is associated.

There is more on Sorbus as a drink below.