Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of trees or bushes, native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. The tree is known as linden for the European species, and basswood for North American species. In Britain and Ireland they are commonly called lime trees or lime bushes, although they are not closely related to the tree that produces the lime fruit. The genus occurs in Europe and eastern North America, but the greatest species diversity is found in Asia. Under the Cronquist classification system, this genus was placed in the family Tiliaceae, but genetic research summarised by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group has resulted in the incorporation of this genus, and of most of the previous family, into the Malvaceae.
|Tilia tomentosa, cultivated at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago|
Tilia species are mostly large, deciduous trees, reaching typically 20 to 40 m (65 to 130 ft) tall, with oblique-cordate leaves 6 to 20 cm (2+1⁄4 to 7+3⁄4 in) across. As with elms, the exact number of species is uncertain, as many of the species can hybridise readily, both in the wild and in cultivation. Lindens are hermaphroditic, having perfect flowers with both male and female parts, pollinated by insects.
"Lime" is an altered form of Middle English lind, in the 16th century also line, from Old English feminine lind or linde, Proto-Germanic *lindō, cognate to Latin lentus "flexible" and Sanskrit latā "liana". Within Germanic languages, English "lithe", German lind "lenient, yielding" are from the same root.
"Linden" was originally the adjective, "made from linwood or lime-wood" (equivalent to "wooden"); from the late 16th century, "linden" was also used as a noun, probably influenced by translations of German romance, as an adoption of Linden, the plural of German Linde. Neither the name nor the tree is related to the citrus fruit called "lime" (Citrus aurantifolia, family Rutaceae). Another common name used in North America is basswood, derived from bast, the name for the inner bark (see Uses, below). Teil is an old name for the lime tree.
Latin tilia is cognate to Greek πτελέᾱ, ptelea, "elm tree", τιλίαι, tiliai, "black poplar" (Hes.), ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European word *ptel-ei̯ā with a meaning of "broad" (feminine); perhaps "broad-leaved" or similar.
The Tilia's sturdy trunk stands like a pillar and the branches divide and subdivide into numerous ramifications on which the twigs are fine and thick. In summer, these are profusely clothed with large leaves and the result is a dense head of abundant foliage.
The leaves of all the Tilia species are heart-shaped, and most are asymmetrical. The tiny, pea-like fruit hangs attached to a ribbon-like, greenish-yellow bract whose apparent purpose is to launch the ripened seed clusters just a little beyond the parent tree. The flowers of the European and American Tilia species are similar, except the American ones bear a petal-like scale among their stamens and the European varieties are devoid of these appendages. All of the Tilia species may be propagated by cuttings and grafting, as well as by seed. They grow rapidly in rich soil, but are subject to the attack of many insects. Tilia is notoriously difficult to propagate from seed unless collected fresh in fall. If allowed to dry, the seeds go into a deep dormancy and take 18 months to germinate.
In particular, aphids are attracted by the rich supply of sap, and are in turn often "farmed" by ants for the production of the sap, which the ants collect for their own use, and the result can often be a dripping of excess sap onto the lower branches and leaves, and anything else below. Cars left under the trees can quickly become coated with a film of the syrup ("honeydew") thus dropped from higher up. The ant/aphid "farming" process does not appear to cause any serious damage to the trees.
- Leaf of common lime (Tilia × europaea) showing venation
- Tilia flowers
- Tilia fruit
- The venation within a Tilia bract
In Europe, some linden trees reached considerable ages. A coppice of T. cordata in Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is estimated to be 2,000 years old. In the courtyard of the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg is a Tilia, which by tradition recounted in 1900, was planted by the Empress Cunigunde, the wife of Henry II of Germany circa 1000. The Tilia of Neuenstadt am Kocher in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, was estimated at 1000 years old when it fell. The Alte Linde tree of Naters, Switzerland, is mentioned in a document in 1357 and described by the writer at that time as already magnam (large). A plaque at its foot mentions that in 1155, a linden tree was already on this spot. The Najevnik linden tree (Slovene: Najevska lipa), a 700-year-old T. cordata, is the thickest tree in Slovenia.
- The excellence of the honey of the far-famed Hyblaean Mountains was due to the linden trees that covered its sides and crowned its summit.
- Lime fossils have been found in the Tertiary formations of Grinnell Land, Canada, at 82°N latitude, and in Svalbard, Norway. Sapporta believed he had found there the common ancestor of the Tilia species of Europe and America.
The linden is recommended as an ornamental tree when a mass of foliage or a deep shade is desired. It produces fragrant and nectar-producing flowers and is an important honey plant for beekeepers, giving rise to a pale but richly flavoured monofloral honey. In European and North American herbal medicine, the flowers are also used for herbal teas and tinctures.
Linden trees produce soft and easily worked timber, which has very little grain and a density of 560 kg/m3. It was often used by Germanic tribes for constructing shields. It is a popular wood for model building and for intricate carving. Especially in Germany, it was the classic wood for sculpture from the Middle Ages onwards and is the material for the elaborate altarpieces of Veit Stoss, Tilman Riemenschneider, and many others. In England, it was the favoured medium of the sculptor Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721). The wood is used in marionette- and puppet-making and -carving. Having a fine, light grain and being comparatively light in weight, it has been used for centuries for this purpose; despite the availability of modern alternatives, it remains one of the main materials used as of 2015[update].
Ease of working and good acoustic properties also make limewood popular for electric and bass guitar bodies and for wind instruments such as recorders. Percussion manufacturers sometimes use Tilia as a material for drum shells, both to enhance their sound and for their aesthetics.
Linden wood is also the material of choice for window blinds and shutters. Real-wood blinds are often made from this lightweight but strong and stable wood, which is well suited to natural and stained finishes.
Known in the trade as basswood, particularly in North America, its name originates from the inner fibrous bark of the tree, known as bast. A strong fibre is obtained from the tree by peeling off the bark and soaking it in water for a month, after which the inner fibres can be easily separated. Bast obtained from the inside of the bark of the Tilia japonica tree has been used by the Ainu people of Japan to weave their traditional clothing, the attus. Recent excavations in Britain have shown that "lime tree fibre" was preferred for clothing there during the Bronze Age. Similar fibres obtained from other plants are also called bast: see Bast fibre.
The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Linden flower tea has a pleasing taste, due to the aromatic volatile oil found in the flowers. The flowers, leaves, wood, and charcoal (obtained from the wood) are used for medicinal purposes. Active ingredients in the Tilia flowers include flavonoids (which act as antioxidants) and volatile oils. The plant also contains tannins that can act as an astringent.
Linden flowers are used in herbalism for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, and headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. In traditional Austrian medicine, Tilia flowers have been used internally as tea for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, fever, and flu. New evidence shows that the flowers may be hepatoprotective. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). That wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection such as cellulitis or ulcers of the lower leg.
Usually, the double-flowered species are used to make perfumes. The leaf buds and young leaves are also edible raw.
This list comprises the most widely accepted species, hybrids, and cultivars".
- Tilia americana L. – American basswood, American linden
- Tilia amurensis – Amur lime, Amur linden
- Tilia caroliniana – Carolina basswood
- Tilia chinensis – Chinese linden
- Tilia chingiana Hu & W.C.Cheng
- Tilia cordata Mill. – Small-leaved lime, little-leaf linden or greenspire linden
- Tilia dasystyla Steven
- Tilia henryana Szyszyl. – Henry's lime, Henry's linden
- Tilia hupehensis – Hubei lime
- Tilia insularis
- Tilia intonsa
- Tilia japonica – Japanese lime, shina (when used as a laminate)
- †Tilia johnsoni Wolfe & Wehr Eocene; Washington and British Columbia
- Tilia kiusiana
- Tilia mandshurica – Manchurian lime
- Tilia maximowicziana
- Tilia miqueliana
- Tilia mongolica Maxim. – Mongolian lime, Mongolian linden
- Tilia nasczokinii – Nasczokin's lime, Nasczokin's linden
- Tilia nobilis
- Tilia oliveri – Oliver's lime
- Tilia paucicostata
- Tilia platyphyllos Scop. – large-leaved lime
- Tilia rubra – Red stem lime (syn. T. platyphyllos var. rubra)
- Tilia tomentosa Moench – silver lime, silver linden
- Tilia tuan Szyszyl.
Hybrids and cultivars
- Tilia × euchlora (T. dasystyla × T. cordata)
- Tilia × europaea – Common lime (T. cordata × T. platyphyllos; syn. T. × vulgaris)
- Tilia × petiolaris (T. tomentosa × T. ?)
- Tilia 'Flavescens' – Glenleven linden (T. americana × T. cordata)
- Tilia 'Moltkei' (T. americana × T. petiolaris)
- Tilia 'Orbicularis' (hybrid, unknown origin)
- Tilia 'Spectabilis' (hybrid, unknown origin)
- Tilia heterophylla (syn. T. monticola)
- Tilia insularis
- Tilia maximowicziana
- Tilia oliveri
- International World War Peace Tree, a Tilia tree that stands as a sign of Germany's armistice with the United States
- Lime tree in culture
- Matryoshka doll, made from linden trees
- St Lawrence Lime, a former lime tree in Canterbury, England
- "Tilia". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
- "Linden, definition". Merriam Webster dictionary. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
- Brown, Lesley (ed.). 2002. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 1, A–M. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 1600.
- Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 24–31.
- Podlewska, Katrina (March 4, 2013). "Celebrating Westonbirt's 2000 Year Old Lime". Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
- Šmid Hribar, Mateja. "Najevska lipa" [Najevnik Linden Tree]. In Šmid Hribar, Mateja; Golež, Gregor; Podjed, Dan; Kladnik, Drago; Erhartič, Bojan; Pavlin, Primož; Ines, Jerele (eds.). Enciklopedija naravne in kulturne dediščine na Slovenskem – DEDI [Encyclopedia of Natural and Cultural Heritage in Slovenia] (in Slovenian). Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Honey". 9th Edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
…honey most esteemed by the ancients was that of Mount Hybla in Sicily…
- "Lime timber". Niche Timbers. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- "Hampton Court Palace: Grinling Gibbons". Hrp.org.uk. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Kallio, Edwin; Richard M. Godman (1973). American Basswood... an American Wood. US Forest Service. p. 5.
- Bradley P., ed. (1992). British Herbal Compendium. Vol. 1: 142–144. British Herbal Medicine Association, Dorset (Great Britain)
- Coleta, M; Campos, M. G.; Cotrim, M. D.; Proença Da Cunha, A (2001). "Comparative evaluation of Melissa officinalis L., Tilia europaea L., Passiflora edulis Sims. And Hypericum perforatum L. In the elevated plus maze anxiety test". Pharmacopsychiatry. 34 Suppl 1: S20–1. doi:10.1055/s-2001-15460. PMID 11518069.
- Vogl, Sylvia; Picker, Paolo; Mihaly-Bison, Judit; Fakhrudin, Nanang; Atanasov, Atanas G.; Heiss, Elke H.; Wawrosch, Christoph; Reznicek, Gottfried; Dirsch, Verena M.; Saukel, Johannes; Kopp, Brigitte (2013). "Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine—An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 149 (3): 750–71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. PMC 3791396. PMID 23770053.
- Matsuda, Hisashi; Ninomiya, Kiyofumi; Shimoda, Hiroshi; Yoshikawa, Masayuki (2002). "Hepatoprotective principles from the flowers of Tilia argentea (Linden): Structure requirements of tiliroside and mechanisms of action". Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 10 (3): 707–712. doi:10.1016/S0968-0896(01)00321-2. PMID 11814859.
- "Tilia cordata Small Leaved Lime, Littleleaf linden". PFAF Plant Database.
- "Tilia americana American Basswood, Carolina basswood, Basswood, AmericanBasswood, American Linden". PFAF Plant Database.