|Leaf Shape||Heart-shaped and asymmetrical|
|Mature Height||50 to 130 feet|
|Best Habitat||Warm with full sun exposure|
|Output||Tiny pea-shaped fruit, yellow flowers, seed clusters|
|Uses||Cabinets, musical instruments, medicine|
Linden trees are part of the Tilia species, though you may recognize them by their other names: Basswood and Lime. The former is native to North America and is a stately tree that grows very slowly. Meanwhile, the later is commonly found in Europe where it is called "Lime," though that is not a reference to the citrus fruit. Rather, "Lime" is an altered form of Middle English "Lind."
Appearance of the Tree
Linden trees are grand deciduous trees that can grow up to 130 feet tall. They feature highly distinguishable leaves that are heart-shaped and asymmetrical. The species also bears tiny pea-shaped fruit that hang from a greenish-yellow bract and contain many seeds.
Other noteworthy characteristics of the Linden tree include:
- Flowers: Fragrant yellow flowers appear in the summer and attract numerous bees.
- Shape: In their youth, Linden trees have a pyramidal shape, though as the tree grows, it develops a more rounded crown.
- Bark: The Linden's gray to brown bark is soft and malleable, while the grain is straight.
The Linden is a sturdy tree; however, given how long it takes to mature, it is not recommended to homeowners looking for a shady yard in a short amount of time.
Linden Tree Types
There are more than 30 types of Linden trees in the Tilia species. The trees grow primarily in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. The most popular are:
- American Linden: Better known in the United States as Basswood, the American Linden grows well from New England to Florida, and west to Oklahoma. It prefers rich, moist, alkaline soil. During the summer months, clusters of pleasant-smelling flowers blossom on the branches of the Linden attracting hundreds of bees who suck the nectar and create white honey from it.
- European Linden: Known in Britain as Lime trees, the European Linden prosper in full sunlight. However, the sun exposure does not speed up the growing process. European Lindens are similar to their American counterparts in that they take years to yield a shady leaf canopy. One of the main differences between the European and American Linden is leaf size. The former has smaller leaves than the latter which can grow up to eight inches in length and five inches in width.
Both types of Linden trees produce light-colored wood that is highly pliable, while the bark becomes thick and furrowed as it ages.
Where the Linden Grows
Most Linden trees grow in North America and Europe, though some Tilia species do quite well in Asia, namely Japan. In the United States you can find Linden trees prospering in:
- North Dakota
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
While the tree grows exceptionally well in moist, fertile soil, it does tolerate clay soils that have adequate drainage. You can often find Linden trees in urban landscapes thanks to the shade they provide after a few growing seasons. Parks and arboretums also house Lindens as they are ideal for blocking wind and for yielding fragrant flowers.
In addition to attracting bees, Lindens are very popular with cabinet makers who cherish their straight grain. The wood is also treasured by cravers, who find the pliable bark ideal for making musical instruments, such as guitars and flutes.
Some of the most popular uses for the tree include:
- Medicine used to treat headaches, colds, cough and fever
- Flavoring for tea and oils
- Additives to hot baths to relieve stomach ailments
Centuries ago, the leaves of the Linden tree were eaten raw to promote sweating and reduce fevers. In addition, in some parts of the world, Linden bark is burned and the ashes are ingested to treat intestinal ailments or applied topically to treat ulcers or edema.
Modern day designers transform Linden wood into fancy furniture, but during the Viking Era, the tree's bark was often used to build shields. Meanwhile, artists in the Middle Ages used Linden branches to construct models and carve out elaborate sculptures.
Other interesting facts about the Linden tree include:
- American Linden trees are rarely planted near parking lots, as the tree's fruit contains sticky nectar that can drip and damage car paint.
- People in Japan weave Linden fibers into their clothing to give it added texture.
- Centuries ago, hunters used to follow bees back to their hives after the insects sucked the nectar from Linden blossoms. Once there they would retrieve honey from the bees' hives.
Lindens are hardy trees though they can be plagued by aphids if not cared for properly. The pesky insects do not cause irreparable damage to the tree, but they coat the leaves with sticky nectar that attracts bees and wasps.
Another hazard to look out for is cottony maple scale. It has been known to infest Linden trees, though it does not kill them. The scales are more of an eyesore and nuisance rather than a serious threat.
Growing healthy Linden trees on your property is not difficult. The large tree needs full to partial sunlight and thrives in temperate conditions.
To get the most from your Linden, consider the following growing tips:
- Do not overwater your tree. It does better in moist, but not soaked soil.
- Lindens are susceptible to some herbicides, so read the package closely before applying it to your tree.
- Lindens are large trees with extensive root systems. Remember to plant your tree in open spaces to avoid structural damage.
Finally, it's important to remove distorted foliage on a regular basis. You should also remove dead limbs from the tree.