Tilia x europa known in the UK as the common lime and in N America as the common linden is from the family Malvaceae. It is a hybrid between the small leaved Tilia cordata and the large leaved Tilia platyphyllos. Both grow naturally in the wild in Europe.
It is a large deciduous tree and can grow up to 50m. The leaves are heart shaped and lime green (obviously!) but turn butter yellow in autumn. The flowers are clustered beneath a long strap like bract. They are sweetly fragrant and pollinated by bees. On a warm day the whole tree can be humming with bees. Lime tree honey is much prized.
The fruit is a small pea sized drupe attached to the bract that seems to act as a sail.
It is easy to propagate and therefore inexpensive, so is widely used in urban streets. It is not an ideal tree for this setting as it produces a mass of shoots at the base. These can be quite extensive as can be seen in The Avenue Bushey.
Another problem that anyone who has inadvertently parked their car under a lime tree in summer will testify; the huge aphid population secrete an extremely sticky ’honeydew’ that is difficult to remove.
One of it’s parents Tilia cordata has herbal uses. A soothing tea can be made from the flowers. The wood is soft and chosen for refined wood carving. Examples of this can be found in St Pauls Cathedral, Windsor Castle and Chatsworth. It is the National Tree of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
At Reveley below the bank on the sunclock lawn we have a special little tree. It is a cultivar of Tilia cordata called ‘Winter Orange’ The young twigs are a vivid orange looking magnificent against the sun and lasting until the spring. This tree was planted to remember Dr Rodney Parker.
Also at Reveley we have two rows of the common lime bordering the main lawn. The old limes to the west are indeed old and some a little rocky. They are pollarded every third year. The pliable stems have been used to make Christmas wreaths at our annual Christmas charity workshop. The young limes to the east were planted by the garden volunteers twelve years ago. They have not been pollarded and unlike the old trees have not produced many basal shoots so far. The plan was to pleach them but I think it passed us by!
Two unrelated but interesting facts:
The common lime is not related to the lime fruit tree which is a species of citrus.
The tree in the poem ‘My Orcha’d in Linden Lea’ by William Barnes and set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams is an apple. Linden Lea is a place.