Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of Paul Alaback, University of Montana.

American linden

Scientific name
Tilia americana
Also Known As
Basswood, Lime tree
Plant Family
American lindens are deciduous trees with unevenly heart-shaped leaves and fragrant yellow flowers. They are also known as Basswoods. This species has large, nearly hairless leaves and flower stalks.
Identification Hints

Lindens, also known as basswoods, are highly prized ornamental trees with soft heart-shaped leaves with fine teeth on the leaf margins, uneven bases and fragrant yellow flowers. The American linden has large hairless leaves and hairless flower stalks as contrasted with the Southern basswoods (Carolina basswood (T. caroliniana), white basswood (T. heterophylla)). The Florida basswood (T. floridana) has silvery undersides to the leaves. Three European species are common ornamentals: small leaved linden (T. cordata) which has small round leaves 2.5 to 6 cm (1 to 2.5 in) and whitish undersides (but small tufts of brown hairs), and the large-leaved lime (T. platyphyllos) with leaves 7.5 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) long (but still smaller and more rounded than American linden) with fine short hairs on the under surface of the leaves.

Did You Know?

Native Americans and settlers used the fibrous inner bark ("bast") as a source of fiber for rope, mats, fish nets, and baskets. Before the widespread availability of synthetics, American Linden was once the material choice for prosthetic limbs. It is still valued for its soft, light, easily worked wood, especially for turned items and hand carving.

The leaves are alternate, unevenly heart shaped, and connected to the branch by a small stem (known as a petiole). The base is often nearly straight across (truncate). They are 2 to 5 in (5 to 12.5 cm) wide. The leaves are thick and slightly leathery, with shallowly toothed edges (margins). They are mostly smooth on both sides with some soft short hairs on the lower surface.
The flowers are yellowish white about 0.4 to 0.55 in (10 to 14 mm) wide. They are broad, fragrant and nectar-bearing, in 6 to 20 flowered drooping clusters, hanging on a stalk that diverges from near the center of an oblong, leaf-like and strongly-veined bract 0.2 to 0.4 in (5 to 10 cm) long.
The fruits are mostly spherical in shape. They are 0.3 to 0.4 in (8 to 10 mm) broad, hard, and dry.
The grey bark is furrowed with flat ridges.
The American linden is found on rich moist sites (e.g., coves, lower slopes, river bottoms) usually on deep, well-drained soils. It rarely occurs in pure stands but it is usually mixed with  other forest tree species. American linden is native to the northern New England, Great Lakes, and some Great Plains states. It is found as far west as North Dakota. It occurs as far south as the mountainous regions of North Carolina, Tennessee, and northern Arkansas.
Bloom Time
Flowering generally occurs from May to June and sometimes as late as July. Flowering usually occurs 1 to 4 weeks after leaves appear in mid-May.