Rowan is found all over Britain, chiefly on acid or light soils. Wild service tree is confined, largely, to southern England and seems to be an indicator of ancient woodland and hedgerow. Its stronghold is in the area of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire known as the Weald, and here there seems to be a curious connection. The berries of the tree are known locally as 'chequers' from their speckled markings, and were popular as food. These berries may have been the source of the name of 'Chequers Inn', many examples of which exist in this South-East corner of England.
The discovery of the range of the service tree is an intriguing and complicated story. It is now believed that the tree was once fairly common over Wales, the South-West and the Midlands but, until quite recently, the only 'wild' specimen was thought to exist in the Wyre Forest. Then a relic population of wild trees was discovered on cliffs in South Glamorgan. From their location it is certain they were not 'planted' by humans as has happened in collections and arboreta elsewhere in England. Some botanists have suggested that other cliff-faces in the south of England should be examined to see if more undiscovered populations exist.
Whitebeam, in its various local forms, is found in isolated places throughout England, Scotland and Wales. One of these species, S. leyana, is limited in its range to a few shrubs growing near Merthyr Tydfil in Brecon whilst, S. wilmottiana is found only in the Avon Gorge near Bristol.
The four main species, aria, aucuparia, torminalis and domestica are found throughout central and southern Europe.