Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Irish whitebeam on Belleek porcelain

In 1984 the famous Belleek Pottery, an internationally renowned porcelain manufacturing company near Belleek village on the banks of the river Erne in County Fermanagh, N. Ireland, produced a limited edition Christmas plate featuring the Irish whitebeam (Sorbus hibernica) illustrated by artist Wendy Walsh.

The Irish whitebeam is an interesting member of the Aria (whitebeam) section of the genus Sorbus. It is distributed all over the island of Ireland where it is endemic indicating it must have been there for a long while, although its putative parents, Sorbus aria and Sorbus porrigentiformis, do not occur anywhere on the island as native species. So, the tree, an apomictic which now appears to reproduce true from seed, was either transported as a seed to Ireland, perhaps inside a bird, or has survived more successfully than its two parents which may once have grown in Ireland.

There is, incidentally, a traditional Irish recipe for apple and whitebeam berry pie. The berries in question would most likely have been from Sorbus hibernica. A good dish maybe to serve on one of these Belleek plates. See here:

In Co. Fermanagh the Irish whitebeam occurs in mixed ash woods.

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