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Tilia tomentosa
Morton Arboretum acc. 1040-65*2
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Tilia

About 30; see text

Tilia leaf

Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of trees, native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere, in Asia (where the greatest species diversity is found), Europe and eastern North America; it is not native to western North America. Under the Cronquist classification system, this genus was placed in the family Tiliaceae, but genetic research by the APG has resulted in the incorporation of this family into the Malvaceae. They are generally called lime in Britain and linden or basswood in North America.

Tilia species are large deciduous trees, reaching typically 20 to 40 metres (70 to 100 ft) tall, with oblique-cordate leaves 6 to 20 centimetres (2 to 8 in) across, and are found through the north temperate regions. The exact number of species is subject to considerable uncertainty, as many or most of the species will hybridise readily, both in the wild and in cultivation.



The lower epidermis of Tilia X cordata showing veination.

Lime is an altered form of Middle English lind, in the 16th century also line, from Old English feminine lind or linde, Proto-Germanic *lendā, cognate to Latin lentus "flexible" and Sanskrit latā "liana". Within Germanic languages, English lithe, German lind "lenient, yielding" are from the same root.

Linden was originally the adjective, "made from lime-wood" (equivalent to "wooden"), from the late 16th century "linden" was also used as a noun, probably influenced by translations of German romance, as an adoption of Linden, the plural of German Linde.[1] Neither the name nor the tree is related to the citrus fruit called "lime" (Citrus aurantifolia, family Rutaceae). Another widely-used common name used in North America is basswood, derived from bast, the name for the inner bark (see Uses, below).

Latin tilia is cognate to Greek πτελέᾱ, ptelea, "elm tree", τιλίαι, tiliai, "black poplar" (Hes.), ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European word *ptel-ei̯ā with a meaning of "broad" (feminine); perhaps "broad-leaved" or similar.[2]


The following list comprises those most widely accepted as species.

  • Tilia americana Basswood or American Linden
  • Tilia amurensis Amur Lime or Amur Linden
  • Tilia begoniifolia (syn. T. dasystyla subsp. caucasica)
  • Tilia caroliniana Carolina Basswood
  • Tilia chinensis
  • Tilia chingiana
  • Tilia cordata Small-leaved Lime, Little-leaf Linden or Greenspire Linden
  • Tilia dasystyla
  • Tilia euchlora Caucasian Lime
  • Tilia henryana Henry's Lime or Henry's Linden
  • Tilia heterophylla White Basswood
  • Tilia hupehensis Hubei Lime
  • Tilia insularis
  • Tilia intonsa
  • Tilia japonica Japanese Lime, Shina (When used as a laminate)
  • Tilia johnsoni Eocene; Washington and British Columbia
T. johnsoni leaf fossil, 49 ma, Washington, USA
  • Tilia kiusiana
  • Tilia mandshurica Manchurian Lime
  • Tilia maximowicziana
  • Tilia mexicana (T. americana var. mexicana)
  • Tilia miqueliana
  • Tilia mongolica Mongolian Lime or Mongolian Linden
  • Tilia nobilis
  • Tilia occidentalis West lime
  • Tilia oliveri Oliver's Lime
  • Tilia paucicostata
  • Tilia platyphyllos Large-leaved Lime
  • Tilia rubra Red Stem Lime (syn. T. platyphyllos var. rubra)
  • Tilia tomentosa Silver Lime or Silver Linden
  • Tilia tuan

Hybrids and cultivars

Leaves and trunk of common lime (Tilia × europaea)
  • Tilia × euchlora (T. dasystyla × T. cordata)
  • Tilia × europaea Common Lime (T. cordata × T. platyphyllos; syn. T. × vulgaris)
  • Tilia × petiolaris (T. tomentosa × T. ?)
  • Tilia 'Flavescens' Glenleven Linden (T. americana × T. cordata)
  • Tilia 'Moltkei' (hybrid, unknown origin)
  • Tilia 'Orbicularis' (hybrid, unknown origin)
  • Tilia 'Spectabilis' (hybrid, unknown origin)


The lime's sturdy trunk stands like a pillar and the branches divide and subdivide into numerous ramifications on which the twigs are fine and thick. In summer these are profusely clothed with large leaves and the result is a dense head of abundant foliage.[3]

The leaves of all the limes are heart-shaped and most are asymmetrical, and the tiny fruit, looking like peas, always hang attached to a curious, ribbon-like, greenish yellow bract, whose use seems to be to launch the ripened seed-clusters just a little beyond the parent tree. The flowers of the European and American limes are similar, except that the American bears a petal-like scale among its stamens and the European varieties are destitute of these appendages. All of the limes may be propagated by cuttings and grafting as well as by seed. They grow rapidly in a rich soil, but are subject to the attacks of many insect enemies.[3]


Lime foliage in autumn colors from Ekoparken in Stockholm.
The venation within the bract of a Lime tree.

The lime is recommended as an ornamental tree when a mass of foliage or a deep shade is desired.[3] The tree produces fragrant and nectar-producing flowers, the medicinal herb lime blossom. They are very important honey plants for beekeepers, producing a very pale but richly flavoured monofloral honey. The flowers are also used for herbal tea, and this infusion is particularly popular in Europe.

T. cordata is the preferred species for medical use, having a high concentration of active compounds. It is said to be a nervine, used by herbalists in treating restlessness, hysteria, and headaches. Usually, the double-flowered limes are used to make perfumes. The leaf buds and young leaves are also edible raw. Tilia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species; see List of Lepidoptera that feed on Tilia.

Limewood Saint George by Tilman Riemenschneider, c. 1490.

The timber of lime trees is soft, easily worked, and has very little grain, and a density of 560kg per cubic metre.[4] It is a popular wood for model building and intricate carving. Especially in Germany, it was the classic wood for sculpture from the Middle Ages onwards, and is the material for the elaborate altarpieces of Veit Stoss, Tilman Riemenschneider and many others. Ease of working and good acoustic properties also make it popular for electric guitar and bass bodies and wind instruments such as recorders. In the past, it was typically used (along with Agathis) for less-expensive models. However, due to its better resonance at mid and high frequency, and better sustain than alder, it is now more commonly in use with the "superstrat" type of guitar. It can also be used for the neck because of its excellent material integrity when bent and ability to produce consistent tone without any dead spots according to Parker Guitars. In the percussion industry, basswood is sometimes used as a material for drum shells, both to enhance their sound and their aesthetics. It is also the wood of choice for the window-blinds and shutters industries. Real wood blinds are often made from this lightweight but strong and stable wood which is well suited to natural and stained finishes.

It is known in the trade as basswood, particularly in North America. This name originates from the inner fibrous bark of the tree, known as bast. A very strong fibre is obtained from this, by peeling off the bark and soaking in water for a month; after which the inner fibres can be easily separated. Bast obtained from the inside of the bark of the lime tree has been used by the Ainu people of Japan to weave their traditional clothing, the attus. Similar fibres are obtained from other plants are also called bast, named after those from the lime: see Bast (fibre).

Medicinal uses

Most medicinal research has focused on Tilia cordata although other species are also used medicinally and somewhat interchangeably. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Limeflower 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 lime 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.[5]

Lime 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. [6] New evidence shows that the flowers may be hepatoprotective.[7] 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). That 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.[5]

Bole of an ancient lime at Frankenbrunn, near Bad Kissingen, Bavaria


Lime Nail galls, caused by the mite, Eriophyes tiliae tiliae.

In Europe, Lime trees are known to have reached ages measured in centuries, if not longer. A coppice of T. cordata in Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, for example, is estimated to be 2,000 years old.[1]In the courtyard of the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg is a lime which tradition says was planted by the Empress Cunigunde, the wife of Henry II of Germany. This would make the tree about nine hundred years old (as of 1900 when it was described). It looks ancient and infirm, but in 1900 was sending forth thrifty leaves on its two or three remaining branches and was of course cared for tenderly. The famous Lime of Neustadt on the Kocher in Württemberg was computed to be one thousand years old when it fell.[3]. The Alte Linde tree of Naters, Switzerland, is mentioned in a document in 1357 and described by the writer at that time as already "magnam" (huge). A plaque at its foot mentions that in 1155 a Lime tree was already on this spot.

  • The excellence of the honey of far-famed Hybla was due to the lime trees that covered its sides and crowned its summit.
  • The name of Linnaeus, the great botanist, was derived from a lime tree.
  • Tilia appears in the tertiary formations of Grinnel Land in 82° north latitude, and in Spitsbergen. Sapporta believed that he found there the common ancestor of the limes of Europe and America.[3]

Cultural significance

Slavic mythology

In old Slavic mythology, lime (lipa, as called in all Slavic languages) was considered a sacred tree.[8] Particularly in Poland many villages have a name "Święta Lipka" (or similar) what literally means "Holy Lime". To this day, the lime tree is a national emblem of Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Sorbs. Lipa gave name to the traditional Slavic name for the month of June (Croatian, lipanj) or July (Polish, lipiec). It is also the root for the German city of Leipzig, taken from the Sorbian name lipsk.[9] The Croatian currency, kuna, consists of 100 lipa, also meaning "lime"; "lipa" was also a proposed name for Slovenian currency in 1990, however the name "tolar" ultimately prevailed.[10]. In the Slavic Orthodox Christian world, limewood was the preferred wood for panel icon painting. The famous icons by the hand of Andrei Rublev, including the Holy Trinity (Hospitality of Abraham), and The Savior, now in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, are painted on limewood. Limewood was chosen for its ability to be sanded very smooth, and for its resistance to warping once seasoned.

The tree also has cultural and spiritual significance in Hungary, where it is called hars(fa).

Germanic mythology

The tilia was also a highly symbolic and hallowed tree to the Germanic peoples in their native pre-Christian Germanic mythology.

Originally, local communities assembled not only to celebrate and dance under the lime-tree, but to hold their judicial thing meetings there in order to restore justice and peace. It was believed that the tree would help unearth the truth. Thus the tree became associated with jurisprudence even after Christianization, such as in the case of the Gerichtslinde, and verdicts in rural Germany were frequently returned sub tilia (under the lime-tree) until the Age of Enlightenment.

In the Nibelungenlied, a medieval German work ultimately based on oral tradition recounting events amongst the Germanic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries, Siegfried gains his invulnerability by bathing in the blood of a dragon. While he did so, a single lime leaf sticks to him, leaving a spot on his body untouched by the blood and he thus has a single point of vulnerability.

The most famous street in Berlin, Germany is called Unter den Linden or Under the limes, named after the lime trees lining the boulevard. In German folklore, the lime tree is the "tree of lovers."

Greek mythology

Homer, Horace, Virgil, and Pliny mention the lime-tree and its virtues. As Ovid tells the old story of Baucis and Philemon, she was changed into a lime and he into an oak when the time came for them both to die.

Herodotus says:

The Scythian diviners take also the leaf of the lime-tree, which, dividing into three parts, they twine round their fingers; they then unbind it and exercise the art to which they pretend.


Romantic symbol

A mediaeval love poem by Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170–c. 1230) starts with a reference to the lime-tree:

Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ mugt ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
vor dem wald in einem tal,
schône sanc diu nahtegal.
Under the lime tree
on the open field,
where we two had our bed,
you still can see
lovely both
broken flowers and grass.
On the edge of the woods in a vale,
sweetly sang the nightingale.

Lime trees play a significant motif in a number of poems written by the most famous Romanian romantic poet Mihai Eminescu. An excerpt from his poem Mai am un singur dor (One Wish Alone Have I):

Pătrunză talanga
Al serii rece vânt,
Deasupră-mi teiul sfânt
Să-şi scuture creanga.
While softly rings
The evening's cool wind
Above me the holy lime
Shakes its branch. (translation: M.G.Jiva)

In 1979, the trees were featured in the song Gelato al Cioccolato on the album of the same name by Italian singer-songwriter Enzo Ghinazzi, also known as Pupo.

In 2003, the trees were featured in the popular song "Dragostea Din Tei" ("Love from Lime Trees") by the Moldovan band O-Zone.

Other literary references

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge features lime trees as an important symbol in his poem "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison" (written 1797; first published 1800).
  • The short poems (Fraszki) of Polish poet Jan Kochanowski commonly feature lime trees, especially "Na Lipę" (To The Lime Tree), published in 1584. Kochanowski was heavily influenced by the Czarnolas, or the Polish Black Forest, where the dominant tree species is lime.
  • The lime tree is featured as a symbol of supernatural dread in Hannah Crafts' The Bondwoman's Narrative.
  • A road lined with lime trees is cursed by the narrator of the famous censored poem, "Ich was ein chint so wolgetan" (I was such a lovely child), from the Carmina Burana.
  • A poem from Wilhelm Müller's Winterreise cycle of poems is called "Der Lindenbaum" (The Linden Tree). The cycle was later set to music by Franz Schubert.
  • The lime tree features throughout Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther; Werther is finally buried under one.
  • Lime trees are featured in Tolstoy's War and Peace.
  • In Swann's Way, the first book of Proust's In Search of Lost Time, the narrator dips a petite madeleine into a cup of lime blossom tea. The aroma and taste of cake and tea triggers his first conscious involuntary memory.
  • The band Bright Eyes has a song called 'Lime Tree' on the album Cassadaga. "Under the eaves of that old Lime Tree I stood examining the fruit."
  • Prominently featured throughout Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence.

See also


  1. ^ OED
  2. ^ IEW
  3. ^ a b c d e f Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 24–31.  
  4. ^ Lime timber. Niche Timbers. Accessed 19-08-2009.
  5. ^ a b Bradley P., ed. (1992). British Herbal Compendium. Vol. 1: 142–144. British Herbal Medicine Association, Dorset (Great Britain)
  6. ^ Coleta, M., Campos, M. G., Cotrim, M. D., et al. (2001). Comparative evaluation of Melissa officinalis L., Tilia europaea L., Passiflora edulis Sims. and Hypericum perforatum L. in the elevated plus maze anxiety test. Pharmacopsychiatry 34 (suppl 1): S20–1
  7. ^ Matsuda. H., Ninomiya, K., Shimoda, H., & Yoshikawa, M. (2002). Hepatoprotective principles from the flowers of Tilia argentea (linden): structure requirements of tiliroside and mechanisms of action. Bioorg Med Chem. 10 (30): 707–712.
  8. ^ Archaeology and Language: Language change and cultural transformation Roger Blench, Matthew Spriggs, p.199
  9. ^ Hanswilhelm Haefs. Das 2. Handbuch des nutzlosen Wissens. ISBN 3831137544 (German)
  10. ^ See Slovenska lipa


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Latin tilia (linden tree)

Proper noun


  1. A genus of trees, including the lindens, the basswoods and the lime tree.

See also


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Malvales
Familia: Malvaceae
Subfamilia: Tilioideae
Genus: Tilia
Species: T. americana - T. amurensis - T. caroliniana - T. caucasica - T. chinensis - T. chingiana - T. cordata - T. dasystyla - T. flavescens - T. henryana - T. heterophylla - T. insularis - T. intonsa - T. japonica - †T. johnsoni - T. kiusiana - T. mandshurica - T. maximowicziana - T. miqueliana - T. mongolica - T. nasczokinii - T. nobilis - T. oliveri - T. paucicostata - T. platyphyllos - T. taquetii - T. tomentosa - T. tuan

Hybrids: T. × euchlora - T. × europaea - T. × moltkei


Tilia L.

Vernacular names

العربية: زيزفون
Српски / Srpski: Липа
Dansk: Lind
Deutsch: Linden
Eesti: Pärn
English: Lime (UK); Basswood, Linden (North America)
Español: Tilo
Esperanto: Tilio
Euskara: Ezki
Français: Tilleul
Hrvatski: Lipa
Italiano: Tiglio
עברית: טיליה
Lietuvių: Liepa
Magyar: Hárs
Nederlands: Lindeboom
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Lind
Polski: Lipa
Português: Tília
Română: Tei
Русский: Липа
Slovenščina: Lipa
Svenska: Lind
Türkçe: Ihlamur
Українська: Липа
中文: 椴树
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Tilia on Wikimedia Commons.

Simple English

File:Sommerlinde (Tilia platyphyllos).jpg
Tilia platyphyllos
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Tilia

Tilia is a genus of between 30 and 45 species of trees in the Northern Hemisphere, in Asia (where the greatest species diversity is found), Europe and eastern North America; it is absent from western North America.

The trees are generally called linden in North America, and lime in Britain. Both names are went from the Germanic root lind. The modern forms in English went from linde or linne in Anglo Saxon and old Norse, and in Britain the word transformed more recently to the modern British form lime. In the United States, the modern German name Linde, from the same root, became more common, partly to avoid confusion with any other uses of the name.

Tilia species are large deciduous trees, reaching typically between 20m and 40m tall, some species grow as shrubs. Plants of this genus are found through the north temperate regions.



The Germanic tribes associated the Linden tree with the goddess Freya. Very often, these tribes held their assemblies, called Thing near or under such a tree. Often, trees that were standing alone somewhere were chosen. These assemblies were used to make laws. They usually lasted three days.


Tilia mongolica

[[File:|thumb|Tilia nasczokinii]]

Tilia platyphyllos
  • Tilia americana
  • Tilia amurensis
  • Tilia begoniifolia
  • Tilia caroliniana
  • Tilia chinensis
  • Tilia chingiana
  • Tilia cordata
  • Tilia dasystyla
  • Tilia henryana
  • Tilia heterophylla
  • Tilia hupehensis
  • Tilia insularis
  • Tilia intonsa
  • Tilia japonica
  • Tilia kiusiana
  • Tilia mandshurica
  • Tilia maximowicziana
  • Tilia mexicana
  • Tilia miqueliana
  • Tilia mongolica
  • Tilia nasczokinii
  • Tilia nobilis
  • Tilia occidentalis
  • Tilia oliveri
  • Tilia paucicostata
  • Tilia platyphyllos
  • Tilia rubra
  • Tilia tomentosa
  • Tilia tuan

Hybrids and cultivars

  • Tilia × euchlora (T. dasystyla × T. cordata)
  • Tilia × europaea Common Lime (T. cordata × T. platyphyllos; syn. T. × vulgaris)
  • Tilia × petiolaris (T. tomentosa × T. ?)
  • Tilia 'Flavescens' (T. americana × T. cordata)
  • Tilia 'Moltkei' (hybrid, unknown origin)
  • Tilia 'Orbicularis' (hybrid, unknown origin)
  • Tilia 'Spectabilis' (hybrid, unknown origin)


The tree produces fragrant and nectar-producing flowers, the medicinal herb lime blossom. They are very important honey plants for beekeepers, producing a very pale but richly flavoured monofloral honey. The flowers are also used for herbal tea, and this infusion is particularly popular in Europe.

Other websites

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Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Look up Tilia in Wikispecies, a directory of species

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