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Plants from the Ground Up

Tilia americana – The Basswood Tree

 In his wonderful book ‘Stalking the Healthful Herbs’, Euell Gibbons describes hearing the ‘Basswood’ long before you see it. When the garden is aswarm with the humming of bees, it’s clear how well loved our American Linden is to pollinators. In June to July beautiful and intoxicatingly fragrant pale-yellow cymes of flowers hang in abundance on these trees. The honey and citrus scented flowers have long been loved by humans too! Linden flowers make a wonderful tea said to relax the nerves. Two tablespoons of dried flowers are steeped per cup of water to brew this delicious tisane. Honey made from Tilia americana is a prized treat which can also be used to sweeten this brew.

Tilia americana - flower

Tilia americana – flower

Not for the small garden, Tilia Americana can easily grow to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Pretty dark-green cordate to ovate leaves hang in an alternate arrangement on this large somewhat pendulous dome-shaped tree. After the early summer flowers are done blooming, interesting small downy nutlets appear in clusters. The American Linden grows from Manitoba to South Carolina and Wisconsin to Oklahoma. The trees are found growing in both dry upland areas as well as moist lowlands. This beautiful shade tree is easily grown in medium moist well-drained soil. It is tolerant of some drought, but thrives with adequate moisture. Tilias are generally intolerant of urban situations.

Tilia americana - leaves

Tilia americana – leaves

 

Tilia americana - fruit

Tilia – fruit

Known as Basswood, from bast –meaning inner bark, Tilia has been long used for making wood carvings, syrup and medicine! The wood has very smooth grain making it a good choice for carving and instruments. Tilia can be tapped much like Maples or Birches for a sweet syrup. Medicinally it has been used as a sleep aid and to quell hysteria. The flowers have been used to soothe colds, fevers, infections and headaches. Tilia flowers have also been found to contain flavinoids which act as antioxidants.

Tilia americana - fall color

Tilia americana – fall color

Tilia americana are notoriously hard to grow from seed. It is recommended to stratify them for several months and sow them in spring. In the wild they sprout easily from trees that fall or are cut. Linden trees are winter hardy to zone 4.

For more photos and information, see Tilia at the Forestfarm Store.

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