Tilia americana

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Tilia americana
Tilia americana (American Linden) (28268263222).jpg
Leaves and flowers
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Tilia
T. americana
Binomial name
Tilia americana
Tlilia americana map.png
Natural range

Tilia glabra Ventenat

Tilia americana is a species of tree in the family Malvaceae, native to eastern North America, from southeast Manitoba east to New Brunswick, southwest to northeast Oklahoma, southeast to South Carolina, and west along the Niobrara River to Cherry County, Nebraska. It is the sole representative of its genus in the Western Hemisphere, assuming T. caroliniana is treated as a subspecies or local ecotype of T. americana. [2] [3] Common names include American basswood [4] and American linden.



A specimen in the Arnold Arboretum leafing out in spring Tilia americana, Arnold Arboretum - IMG 5911.JPG
A specimen in the Arnold Arboretum leafing out in spring

The American basswood is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree reaching a height of 18 to 37 m (60 to 120 ft) exceptionally 39 m (128 ft) with a trunk diameter of 1–1.5 m (3–5 ft) at maturity. It grows faster than many North American hardwoods, often twice the annual growth rate of American beech and many birch species. Life expectancy is around 200 years, with flowering and seeding generally occurring between 15 and 100 years, though occasionally seed production may start as early as eight years.

The crown is domed, the branches spreading, often pendulous. The bark is gray to light brown, with narrow, well defined fissures. The roots are large, deep, and spreading. The twigs are smooth, reddish-green, becoming light gray in their second year, finally dark brown or brownish gray, marked with dark wart-like excrescences. The winter buds are stout, ovate-acute, smooth, deep red, with two bud scales visible.

The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, ovate to cordate, asymmetrical, unequal at the base (the side nearest the branch the largest), 10–15 cm (4–6 in) (can grow up to 25 cm or 10 in) long and broad, with a long, slender petiole, a coarsely serrated margin and an acuminate apex. Bean noted that occasionally, enormous leaves measuring 38 cm or 15 in long by 25 cm or 10 in wide appear on thick, succulent shoots. [5] They open from the bud conduplicate, pale green, downy; when full grown are dark green, smooth, shining above, paler beneath, with tufts of rusty brown hairs in the axils of the primary veins; the small stipules fall soon after leaf opening. The fall color is yellow-green to yellow. Both the twigs and leaves contain mucilaginous sap.

The flowers are small, fragrant, yellowish-white, 10–14 mm (1332916 inch) in diameter, arranged in drooping, cymose clusters of 6–20 with a whitish-green leaf-like bract attached for half its length at the base of the cyme. They are perfect, regular, with five sepals and petals, numerous stamens, and a five-celled superior ovary. The leaves emerge in mid-spring, but the flowers require day lengths of approximately 14 hours and 30 minutes to form, hence T. americana's range is limited to north of the 35th parallel. Time of flowering varies by several weeks depending on the latitude; early May in Canada and early June in the extreme southern extent. Leaf drop in fall occurs between early and late October depending on the latitude. The flowers are fragrant and insect-pollinated.

The fruit is a small, globose, downy, hard and dry cream-colored nutlet with a diameter of 8–10 mm (5161332 in). [2] [6] [7]


American basswood is dominant in the sugar maple–basswood forest association, which is most common in western Wisconsin and central Minnesota, but occurs as far east as New England and southern Quebec in places that have mesic soil with relatively high pH. It also has minor occurrence in many other forest cover types.

Its flowers provide abundant nectar for insects. The seeds are eaten by chipmunks, mice, and squirrels. Rabbits and voles eat the bark, sometimes girdling young trees. The leaves serve as food for caterpillars of various Lepidoptera (see Lepidoptera which feed on Tilia). The ribbed cocoon maker species Bucculatrix improvisa has not been found on other plants.

This species is particularly susceptible to adult Japanese beetles (an invasive species in North America) that feed on its leaves. [8] The mushroom Pholiota squarrosoides is known to decay the logs of the tree. [9]

Cultivation and uses

Sections of Tilia americana from The American Woods Tilia americana sections.jpg
Sections of Tilia americana from The American Woods

The American basswood can be propagated by cuttings and grafting as well as by seed. Propagated plants grow rapidly in a rich soil, but are susceptible to many pests.

The American basswood is known for being one of the most difficult native North American trees to propagate from seed, as they not only have a low viability rate (approximately 30% of all seeds are viable), but quickly develop an extremely hard seed coating that may delay germination for up to two years. If planting them, it is recommended to gather the seeds in early autumn and sow them before they dry out and form a coating. This will then allow germination to occur immediately. Overall, seeds are not a major part of the tree's reproductive strategy and it instead mostly spreads by self-coppicing. All juvenile basswoods coppice extremely readily, and even old trees will often sprout from the stump if cut.

The American basswood is recommended as an ornamental tree when the mass of foliage or a deep shade is desired; no native tree surpasses it in this respect. It is often planted on the windward side of an orchard as a protection to young and delicate trees. [7] It is cultivated at least as far north as Juneau, Alaska. [10]

The foliage and flowers are both edible, though the tender young leaves are more palatable. It is a beneficial species for attracting pollinators as well. Bees produce excellent honey with a mildly spicy flavor from its blossoms. The inner bark was used historically as a fiber source for making baskets, rope, and fishing nets. [11]

Basswood attracts many insect pests, including Japanese beetles, and skeletonized leaves are common. Mite galls commonly form on the foliage.

Cultivars include 'Nova', 'Duros' (with an upright crown), the pyramidal 'Frontyard' and the conic-crowned 'Redmond'.

The tree was introduced to the UK in 1752, but has never prospered there, being prone to dieback. [5]


The wood is pale brown, sometimes nearly white or faintly tinged with red; light, soft with fine close grain; clear of knots but does not split easily. It is low in strength and has a poor steam-bending classification. It can take stains and polish without difficulty and it planes, glues, screws and nails well. [12] It is sold generally under the name basswood, but is sometimes confounded with tulip-wood and then called white-wood, and is largely used in the manufacture of wooden-ware, wagon boxes and furniture. It has a density of 0.4525 (relative to water). The wood is considered odorless. This makes it valuable in the manufacture of wooden-ware, cheap furniture, and bodies of carriages; it is also especially adapted for wood-carving. The inner bark is very tough and fibrous, used in the past for making ropes. [7]

Basswood is a tonewood commonly used in the manufacture of solid-body electric guitars. It is relatively lightweight and easy to work and sand. [13] It accepts paint and finishes very well. It is usually used for guitars that will be painted an opaque color as its lack of notable grain makes it an unattractive candidate for transparent finish. It exhibits a very balanced, [14] even tone with a good low/mid-midrange projection making it suitable for a wide variety of musical applications. [15] It is often paired with maple laminates to balance the midrange with more treble (inherent to maple) to make a very well rounded sounding instrument. It is also relatively inexpensive, which has made it a favorite of large factories mass-producing instruments.

It has proven especially popular in instruments made for musicians who play heavy metal. This could be because its tonality helps level out the thin, tinny sound associated with knife edged tremolo contacts that many modern rock and metal players use as bridges on their guitars. [14]

Medicinal uses

Although Tilia cordata is believed to be stronger, T. americana is also used medicinally. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Linden 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 linden flowers include flavonoids (which act as antioxidants), volatile oils, and mucilaginous constituents (which soothe and reduce inflammation). The plant also contains tannins that can act as an astringent. [16]

Linden flowers are used in colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. The flowers were added to baths to quell hysteria, and steeped as a tea to relieve anxiety-related indigestion, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. The leaves are used to promote sweating to reduce fevers. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). The 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. [16] [17]

Several animal studies showed that the extract of T. americana increased sleeping time by 50 minutes (similar to the effects of diazepam) and decreased movement, which indicates sedative effects. [17] [18] It is argued that its mechanism of action is due to the flavonoid quercetin, [19] [20] as it inhibits the release of histamine. [21] [ unreliable medical source? ]

Related Research Articles

<i>Tilia</i> Plant genus

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, although they are not related to the citrus lime. The genus occurs in Europe and eastern North America, but the greatest species diversity is found in Asia. In Chinese, "椴/duàn" or "椴樹/duànshù" is a general term for Tilia species. 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.

<i>Tilia cordata</i> Species of tree

Tilia cordata, the small-leaved lime or small-leaved linden, is a species of tree in the family Malvaceae, native to much of Europe. Other common names include little-leaf or littleleaf linden, or traditionally in South East England, pry or pry tree. Its range extends from Britain through mainland Europe to the Caucasus and western Asia. In the south of its range it is restricted to high elevations.

<i>Tilia platyphyllos</i> Species of tree

Tilia platyphyllos, the large-leaved lime or large-leaved linden, is a species of flowering plant in the family Malvaceae (Tiliaceae). It is a deciduous tree, native to much of Europe, including locally in southwestern Great Britain, growing on lime-rich soils. The common names largeleaf linden and large-leaved linden are in standard use throughout the English-speaking world except in the British Isles, where it is known as large-leaved lime. The name "lime", possibly a corruption of "line" originally from "lind", has been in use for centuries and also attaches to other species of Tilia. It is not, however, closely related to the lime fruit tree, a species of citrus.

<i>Juglans nigra</i> Species of tree

Juglans nigra, the eastern American black walnut, is a species of deciduous tree in the walnut family, Juglandaceae, native to North America. It grows mostly in riparian zones, from southern Ontario, west to southeast South Dakota, south to Georgia, northern Florida and southwest to central Texas. Wild trees in the upper Ottawa Valley may be an isolated native population or may have derived from planted trees.

<i>Turnera diffusa</i> Species of shrub

Turnera diffusa, known as damiana, is a shrub native to southern Texas in the United States, Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. It belongs to the family Passifloraceae.

<i>Juglans cinerea</i> Species of tree

Juglans cinerea, commonly known as butternut or white walnut, is a species of walnut native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada.

<i>Ulmus rubra</i> Species of tree

Ulmus rubra, the slippery elm, is a species of elm native to eastern North America. Other common names include red elm, gray elm, soft elm, moose elm, and Indian elm.

<i>Sambucus ebulus</i> Species of flowering plant

Sambucus ebulus, also known as danewort, dane weed, danesblood, dwarf elder or European dwarf elder, walewort, dwarf elderberry, elderwort and blood hilder, is a herbaceous species of elder, native to southern and central Europe and southwest Asia. The species is a well-established archaeophyte in much of the UK, and is also reportedly naturalized in parts of North America.

<i>Passiflora incarnata</i> Species of vine

Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as maypop, purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, is a fast-growing perennial vine with climbing or trailing stems. A member of the passionflower genus Passiflora, the maypop has large, intricate flowers with prominent styles and stamens. One of the hardiest species of passionflower, it is both found as a wildflower in the southern United States and in cultivation for its fruit and striking bluish purple blooms. Passiflora incarnata fruit contain many seeds, each surrounded by an aril holding edible juice, and this juice can be consumed fresh or used to flavor processed products.

<i>Phellodendron amurense</i> Species of tree

Phellodendron amurense is a species of tree in the family Rutaceae, commonly called the Amur cork tree. It is a major source of huáng bò, one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. The Ainu people used this plant, called shikerebe-ni, as a painkiller. It is known as hwangbyeok in Korean and (キハダ) kihada in Japanese.

<i>Buxus sempervirens</i> Species of flowering plants in the box family

Buxus sempervirens, the common box, European box, or boxwood, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Buxus, native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia, from southern England south to northern Morocco, and east through the northern Mediterranean region to Turkey. Buxus colchica of western Caucasus and B. hyrcana of northern Iran and eastern Caucasus are commonly treated as synonyms of B. sempervirens.

<i>Psidium guajava</i> Species of flowering plant

Psidium guajava, the common guava, yellow guava, lemon guava, or apple guava is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. It is easily pollinated by insects; when cultivated, it is pollinated mainly by the common honey bee, Apis mellifera.

<i>Handroanthus impetiginosus</i> Species of tree

Handroanthus impetiginosus, the pink ipê, pink lapacho or pink trumpet tree, is a tree in the family Bignoniaceae, distributed throughout North, Central and South America, from northern Mexico south to northern Argentina. It is the national tree of Paraguay.

<i>Tilia tomentosa</i> Species of flowering plant

Tilia tomentosa, known as silver linden in the US and silver lime in the UK, is a species of flowering plant in the family Malvaceae, native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Romania and the Balkans east to western Turkey, occurring at moderate altitudes.

<i>Justicia pectoralis</i> Species of flowering plant

Justicia pectoralis is an herb in the family Acanthaceae. This water-willow is widely known as tilo in Latin America and in Cuba. In Haiti it is called chapantye and zeb chapantyè on Dominica and Martinique. Other folk names are freshcut, chambácarpintero ("carpenter"), té criollo, curia, death-angel, masha-hari, or "piri piri". This species was described by Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin in 1760, who provided additional data in 1763. A well-marked variety, var. stenophylla, was described by Emery Clarence Leonard in 1958.

<i>Ximenia americana</i> Species of tree

Ximenia americana, commonly known as tallow wood, hog plum, yellow plum, sea lemon, or pi'ut (Chamorro), is bush-forming shrub/small tree; a species from the Ximenia genus in the Olacaceae family. It is mainly found in the tropics, ranging from Africa, India and southeast Asia, to Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, West Indies, Central, North and South America. It is especially common in Africa and South America. It is not domesticated so it is only found occurring in the wild.

<i>Croton sylvaticus</i> Species of flowering plant

Croton sylvaticus is a tree in the family Euphorbiaceae. It is commonly known as the forest fever-berry. These trees are distributed in forests from the east coast of South Africa to Tropical Africa. It grows 7–13 metres (23–43 ft) in height, occasionally up to 30 metres (100 ft), in moist forests, thickets and forest edges at altitudes of 350–1,800 metres (1,100–5,900 ft).

<i>Tilia caroliniana</i> Species of tree

Tilia carolinianaMill. is a species of tree in the family Malvaceae native to the southern and south-eastern states of the U.S., and Mexico.

<i>Tilia japonica</i> Species of tree

Tilia japonica, the Japanese lime or Japanese linden, is a species of Tilia native to eastern China and Japan, preferring to grow in mountains up to 2000 m. It superficially resembles the better-known Tilia cordata, the small-leaved lime, and was originally described as Tilia cordata var. japonica. It differs from T. cordata in having 164 chromosomes instead of 82, and by some subtle differences in leaf and flower morphology. T. japonica inflorescences consistently have 5 staminodes, which is a reliable trait distinguishing it from T. cordata and T. amurensis. Recent studies indicate T.japonica to play an important role in maintaining the ectomycorrhizal networks in local forests it grows in Japan.

<i>Tilia amurensis</i> Species of tree

Tilia amurensis, the Amur lime or Amur linden, is a species of Tilia native to eastern Asia. It differs from the better-known Tilia cordata in having somewhat smaller leaves, bracts and cymes. It is an important timber tree in Russia, China and Korea, and is occasionally planted as a street tree in cities with colder climates.


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