Monday, August 1, 2011

Tree of the Month: American Linden

The heat of mid-summer is well underway in D.C. If outdoor shade is what you seek, refuge under our Tree of the Month for August, the American linden (Tilia americana), just may provide some relief.

The American linden, also commonly known as American basswood or lime, is a tree native to North America and traditionally found throughout New England, Quebec, New Brunswick, the Great Lakes region and downward into the South. When fully mature, the American linden can grow to a very impressive size, with fully developed specimens ranging from 75 to 130 feet in height and three to four feet in diameter.

This American linden towers over surrounding structures.

There are a few noteworthy characteristics to help identify the American linden. Its bark is vertically ridged and gray in color, with quite long, overhanging limbs. In late June or early July, small, yellow clusters of flowers bloom at the tip of its branches - a fragrant attraction for honeybees, eager to extract pollen for their production of sweet honey. It is also a deciduous tree, meaning that in just a few months its canopy will be ablaze with autumn color, eventually shedding its leaves for the winter months.

Facts about the American linden:
  • It's leaves are heart-shaped and deep green in color on top with a paler shade underneath.
  • The Japanese beetle finds its leaves particularly tasty, as they are susceptible to the invasive insect.
  • Their extensive, sprawling root system can support a lifespan of 100 to 150 years. 
  • It qualifies for our tree rebate program (up to $100 per tree).

American lindens originally lined Massachusetts Avenue during much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Recently, plantings by the Urban Forestry Administration and the work of the nonprofit group Restore Mass Ave have aimed to restore and protect the historic integrity of the American linden along the avenue. The U.S. Capitol Grounds is another location in the city for some great examples of the tree. You can take a look at the Casey Trees Map to locate American lindens across D.C.

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