Tilia cordata

Tilia cordata

Tilia cordata (Small-leaved Lime, occasionally Small-leaved Linden) is a species of Tilia native to much of Europe and western Asia, north to southern Great Britain (north to about Durham), central Scandinavia, east to central Russia, and south to central Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and the Caucasus; in the south of its range it is restricted to high altitudes.

It is a deciduous tree growing to 20-38 m tall, with a trunk up to 1-2 m diameter. The leaves are alternately arranged, rounded to triangular-ovate, 3-8 cm long and broad, mostly hairless (unlike the related Tilia platyphyllos) except for small tufts of brown hair in the leaf vein axils. The small yellow-green hermaphrodite flowers are produced in clusters of five to eleven in early summer with a leafy yellow-green subtending bract, have a rich, heavy scent; the trees are much visited by bees. The fruit is a dry nut-like drupe 6–7 mm long and 4 mm broad, downy at first becoming smooth at maturity, and (unlike T. platyphyllos) not ribbed.

It readily hybridises with Tilia platyphyllos; the hybrid is named Tilia × europaea (syn. T. × vulgaris).

Cultivation and uses

It is the national tree of the Czech Republic and Republic of Slovakia.

Tilia cordata is widely grown as an ornamental tree throughout its native range in Europe. It was much planted to form avenues in 17th and early 18th century landscape planning. A famous example is Unter den Linden in Berlin.

It is also widely cultivated in North America as a substitute for the native Tilia americana (Basswood or American Linden) which has a larger leaf, coarser in texture; there it has been renamed "Little-leaf Linden".

In countries of Central Europe, linden flowers are a traditional herbal remedy (linden flower tea), considered to be of value as an anti-inflammatory in range of respiratory problems: colds, fever, flu, sore throat, bronchitis, cough and others.

A valuable monofloral honey is produced by bees using the trees. The young leaves can be eaten as a salad vegetable.

The white, finely-grained wood is a classic choice for refined woodcarvings such as those by Grinling Gibbons or several prominent medieval altars.


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