Tag Archives: basswood

Linden

I was walking through Freedom Park during this rainy September, and these leaves caught my eye. Aren’t they lovely?

The shape is “cordate,” related to such words as cardiac, concord, discord, accord, and cordial. In other words, these leaves are heart-shaped.

These are the leaves of a linden tree, and more exactly, of an American linden. The scientific name is Tilia americana. (There are some 45 species of lindens around the world. Inman Park has a second, European species, Tilia cordata or littleleaf linden, in front of 100 Waverly Way.)

It’s also called basswood, where the prefix bass- refers not to music or fish but to “bast.” Bast is the inner, fibrous bark of linden trees, which Native Americans made into twine. (At some point lind- became “lime” in British English, so if you read about “lime” trees lining some road in Europe, don’t be thinking about citrus trees.)

I love American linden. Here’s a large one in Freedom Park:

It’s native to our region. It grows fast. It can reach 100 feet or more. It can live for well over a century. It is easy to transplant. And it flowers!

Photo credit: Donald Cameron

No surprise that American linden is also called bee tree.

Photo credit: Wayne Hinshaw

I also love this bit of knowledge from Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest:

“The design of each flower is such that the nectar produced on the inside of the sepal cannot be lost by rain or dew. This is because these flowers hang upside down and act like little umbrellas. The nectar, too, hangs in solution upside down. But the sepal produces a few fine hairs that, together with the physics of surface tension, are just enough force to hold the liquid in place without splashing down onto the grass underneath the tree.”

We’ve been planting more of these American lindens in Inman Park. Good for the pollinators, good for the neighborhood! Here’s one in the yard of Bill and Ann Moore: