Tilia cordata

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Tilia cordata
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Tilia
T. cordata
Binomial name
Tilia cordata
Tilia cordata range.svg
Distribution map
Tree bumblebee on the small-leaved lime Bombus hypnorum - Tilia cordata - Keila.jpg
Tree bumblebee on the small-leaved lime

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, [2] or traditionally in South East England, pry or pry tree. [3] 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. [4] [5]



T. platyphyllos (left) and T. cordata leaf comparison Tilia platyphyllos and T. cordata leaf comparison.jpg
T. platyphyllos (left) and T. cordata leaf comparison

Tilia cordata is a deciduous tree growing to 20–40 m (66–131 ft) tall, diameter 1/3 to 1/2 the height, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter. The largest known trunk circumference was a specimen in Närke, Sweden, that measured 8.35 meters diameter at chest height. Lindar in Germany is said to be over 1000 years old. [6] The bark is smooth and grayish when young, firm with vertical ridges and horizontal fissures when older. The crown is rounded in a formal oval shape to pyramidal. Branching is upright and increases in density with age. [7] The leaves are alternately arranged, rounded to triangular-ovate, 38 cm long and broad, mostly hairless (unlike the related Tilia platyphyllos ) except for small tufts of brown hair in the leaf vein axils – the leaves are distinctively heart-shaped. The buds are alternate, pointed egg shaped and have red scales.

Tilia cordata seedling with cotyledons Tilia cordata, Small-leaved Lime, Cowlairs, Glasgow.jpg
Tilia cordata seedling with cotyledons

It has no terminal bud. [7] 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 to the erect flowers which are held above the bract; this flower arrangement is distinctly different from that of the Common Lime Tilia × europaea where the flowers are held beneath the bract. The fruit is a dry nut-like drupe 67 mm long by 4 mm broad containing one, or sometimes two, brown seeds (infertile fruits are globose), downy at first becoming smooth at maturity, and (unlike T. platyphyllos and also T. × europaea) not ribbed but very thin and easily cracked open. [4] [8]


The trees favour good, loamy sites, but can also be found on sandy, infertile soils, and are not thought to be drought resistant. Dormant shoots of Tilia cordata can resist winter frost temperatures as low as −34 °C. [9]

Processed, dyed small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata) pollen. Tilia cordata pollen.jpg
Processed, dyed small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata) pollen.

In Britain Tilia cordata, traditionally called pry, is considered an indicator of ancient woodland, and is becoming increasingly rare. [10] Owing to its rarity, a number of woods have been given SSSI status. Cocklode Wood, part of the Bardney Limewoods, is the best surviving spread of medieval small leaved limes in England. [11] Another site is Shrawley Wood in Worcestershire. [12] Small-leaved lime was once regarded as holy and good for carving. [13]

Trees in northern England were found to have established when the climate was warmer and have adapted to the cooling climate. Paleobotanical analysis of tree pollen preserved in peat deposits demonstrates that Tilia cordata was present as a woodland tree in the southern Lake District c 3100 B.C. [14] In spite of the late migration of T. cordata into the Lake District, pollen diagrams from many sites show rapid expansion so that, within a few centuries, it had become plentiful and even locally dominant in the southern valleys. Maximum values for Tilia from all pollen diagrams available for the north of England show a conspicuous concentration of high values in the southern Lake District. At several sites among the limestone hills on both sides of the estuary of the River Kent, the curves for Tilia, although beginning about 4800 to 4000 B.C. then achieve values of at least 10% within a few centuries. At Witherslack values of this magnitude persist for a depth of 3 m which represents about 4000 years. For much of this period Ulmus is approximately 10%, Quercus 20% and the remaining arboreal pollen is largely that of Alnus. For a shorter period Tilia exceeds Quercus and reaches a maximum of 30%. The (Witherslack) basin is about 200 m in width, so that with distance correction factors applied this indicates that the surrounding woodlands on well-drained soils contained Tilia, Quercus and Ulmus in the proportions 4 : 1 : 1. Modern mature woodland trees were estimated to have germinated between 1150 and 1300 AD, making them around 800 years old. Precise age determination is impossible as heartwood at the centre disintegrates and therefore rings cannot be counted, and other methods are used. [15]

Pests and diseases

The tree is fairly disease-resistant, though a common problem is leaf scorch where planted on dry soils, however leaf scorch is not a long-term problem as the leaves are lost in the autumn. Pests include Japanese beetles, aphids, lace bugs and various species of moths, [16] such as Lymantria dispar dispar (Gypsy moth). This moth is one of the top 100 invasive species in North America, introduced by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, and citizens are encouraged to remove Gypsy moth egg masses and cocoons from tree bark in order to help prevent the spread of this species. [17]

Cultivation and uses

15-year-old lime-tree, Haute-Savoie, France Tilleul, Haute-Savoie, France.jpg
15-year-old lime-tree, Haute-Savoie, France

Tilia cordata is widely grown as an ornamental tree. 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 (American linden or basswood) which has a larger leaf, coarser in texture; there it has been renamed "Little-leaf Linden". It is popular as a shade tree with its dense canopy, as an ornamental tree with its architectural shape, and as a street tree. In the US, Tilia cordata has been planted in Wellesley, MA; Modesto, CA; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis, IN; and Atlanta, GA as street trees. [18] In Europe, there are espaliered trees owing to the ability to survive heavy pruning. Tilia cordata is an easy tree to train for bonsai when the training is not done all at once. Letting the tree recoup in between sessions over a period of several months creates a healthy, good-looking miniature tree. [19] Prior to the advent of firearms, it was also commonly used for making shields (as referenced in Beowulf ).

Tilia cordata survives best in a soil pH range of 5.0 to 8.0. [20] and in USDA Hardiness Zones 3–7. [21] The tree prefers moist, well drained soil, but can survive flooding; it is not highly drought tolerant. [16] It does not do well in soils with high salinity. [22]

Notable trees

The Najevnik linden tree (Slovene : Najevska lipa), about 700 years old Tilia cordata, is the thickest tree in Slovenia. It is a place of cultural events, and every June a national meeting of Slovene politicians takes place under it. [23]



Linden flower tea

Mature fruits Tilia cordata MHNT.BOT.2004.0.780.jpg
Mature fruits
Tiliae flos: Flowers (and impurities consisting of other parts) of Tilia cordata as commonly used in linden flower tea Tiliae flos dried.jpg
Tiliae flos: Flowers (and impurities consisting of other parts) of Tilia cordata as commonly used in linden flower tea

In the countries of Central, Southern and Western Europe, linden flowers are a traditional herbal remedy made into an herbal tea called lime tea [27] or linden tea in Britain, tilleul in France. [28]


A monofloral honey is produced by bees using the trees and is widely used all over Europe. "Linden honey" is said to be nutritious and to have medicinal qualities.


The young leaves can be eaten as a salad vegetable. [29] Often cattle graze upon them. [28]

Linden wood

The white, finely-grained wood is not a structurally strong material but a classic choice for refined woodcarvings such as those by Grinling Gibbons for medieval altarpieces, such as the Altar of Veit Stoss. Linden wood was the prime choice for the carvings in St. Paul's Cathedral, Windsor Castle, and Chatsworth. [28] It is also commonly used for lightweight projects such as carved spoons, light furniture, bee hives and honeycomb frames. [30]

Cultural significance

Tilia cordata pictured in the coat of arms of Valmiera, the city in Latvia COA LV Valmiera.svg
Tilia cordata pictured in the coat of arms of Valmiera, the city in Latvia

Tilia cordata is the national tree of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, [31] and one of two national trees in Latvia. [32] The leaf of Tilia cordata is also considered a national symbol of Slovenia.[ citation needed ]

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 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potterhanworth Wood</span>

Potterhanworth Wood is a 32.0 hectare woodland, close to the village of Potterhanworth in North Kesteven, Lincolnshire, England. Potterhanworth was known as Potter Hanworth until the 1950s. The site was notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1968. The site is also listed in the Nature Conservation Review.

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

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. Common names include American basswood and American linden.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atlantic (period)</span> Period of Blytt–Sernander sequence of north European climatic phase

The Atlantic in palaeoclimatology was the warmest and moistest Blytt–Sernander period, pollen zone and chronozone of Holocene northern Europe. The climate was generally warmer than today. It was preceded by the Boreal, with a climate similar to today's, and was followed by the Subboreal, a transition to the modern. Because it was the warmest period of the Holocene, the Atlantic is often referenced more directly as the Holocene climatic optimum, or just climatic optimum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aller and Beer Woods</span>

Aller and Beer Woods is a 56.9 hectares biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. off the A372 Othery to Langport road near Aller in Somerset. It was notified in 1952.

<i>Tilia <span style="font-style:normal;">×</span> europaea</i> Species of flowering plant

Tilia × europaea, generally known as the European lime, common lime or common linden, is a naturally occurring hybrid between Tilia cordata and Tilia platyphyllos. It occurs in the wild in Europe at scattered localities wherever the two parent species are both native. It is not closely related to the lime fruit tree, a species of citrus.

<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>Eriophyes tiliae</i> Species of mite

Eriophyes tiliae is a mite that forms the lime nail gall or bugle gall. It develops in a chemically induced gall; an erect, oblique or curved distortion rising up from the upper surface of the leaves of the lime (linden) trees, such as the large-leaved lime tree Tilia platyphyllos, the common lime tree Tilia × europaea, etc.

<i>Roeslerstammia erxlebella</i> Species of moth

Roeslerstammia erxlebella is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in all of Europe, east to Japan.

<i>Bucculatrix thoracella</i> Species of moth in genus Bucculatrix

Bucculatrix thoracella, the lime bent-wing, is species of moth in the family Bucculatricidae, and was first described in 1794 by Carl Peter Thunberg as Tinea thoracella. It is found throughout Europe with exception of Ireland and the Balkan Peninsula, and in Japan, where it occurs on the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu.

<i>Phyllonorycter issikii</i> Species of moth

The lime leaf miner is a moth of the family Gracillariidae. It is native to Japan, Korea and eastern Russia, but was probably introduced to eastern Europe around 1970. It is now widespread in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and is expanding its range in Hungary and Germany. It has also been recorded from the Baltic states and also the Benelux in 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Warburton's Wood Nature Reserve</span> Nature reserve

Warburton's Wood Nature Reserve is a nature reserve near Kingsley, Cheshire, England, managed by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Upper Wye Gorge</span>

Upper Wye Gorge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), noted for its biological and geological characteristics, around Symonds Yat in the Wye Valley on the Wales–England border. The site is listed in the 'Forest of Dean Local Plan Review' as a Key Wildlife Site (KWS).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bardney Limewoods</span>

The Bardney Limewoods, part of the Lincolnshire Limewoods National Nature Reserve is a collection of small woodlands near Bardney in Lincolnshire. The reserve includes about half the Limewoods in the area. Cocklode Wood, part of the Bardney Limewoods, is the best surviving spread of medieval limes in England.

<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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