Linden Trees Smell Good

July 5, 2015 lawanda Newspaper Columns

A sweet, sweet smell has permeated my neighborhood for the last week and it’s coming from my yard. The linden tree that shades the south side of my house is in full flower.

Linden, also known as basswood, Latin name Tilia Americana, is not a tree for small landscapes. Lindens can grow nearly 100 feet tall and have a spread almost as wide. Young linden trees are pyramidal in shape while mature trees have a rounder silhouette

Linden leaves are the shape of slightly asymmetrical hearts, and can grow to 8 inches long. In late June and early July the tree is covered with pretty, sweet-smelling yellowish flowers hanging in clusters from leaf-like bracts. The flowers attract bees to such an extent that the tree buzzes like an electric razor. The bees return to their hives and make a clear, much prized, linden flower honey. Linden flowers can be made into a tea used as a digestive aid, a sleep aid and to ease cold and flu symptoms.

The flowers turn into pea-sized fruits that remain on the tree until autumn. Most years there is a shower of dried bracts in mid-summer that can be shredded in place with the lawn mower, raked up and composted, or used as mulch.

Lindens prefer moist, fertile soil with a pH that ranges from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. They tolerate clay soils as long as they don’t find themselves in standing water. Mature lindens need supplemental watering only in times of extreme drought. In that case, lay the hose under the tree’s dripline and let it run slowly for several hours to ensure deep watering.

Young lindens should be planted at least 30 feet from structures, other trees, drainage systems and power lines in anticipation of their eventual size. They thrive in full to partial sunlight producing a dappled shade that allows just enough light through for grass to grow successfully.

A mulch of pine needles, shredded bark or shredded leaves placed around the tree suppresses weeds, holds moisture and alleviates soil temperature fluctuations. Pull the mulch away from the trunk so it doesn’t touch the bark.

Lindens are very sensitive to herbicides, so do not use a weed and feed lawn product over the root zone.

There are two primary insect pests of linden, although my own linden hasn’t been bothered by either of them in the 24 years it has been mine. Neither pest will kill the tree – they just make it not so pretty.

Aphids are tiny green insects that suck the leaf juices resulting in curled leaves and a sticky, sooty deposit that attracts bees and wasps. The other pest is cottony maple scale. It appears as ¼-inch cottony patches on the twigs and branches.

There are a few varieties of linden with slightly different shapes and heights at maturity. Read the tag on the tree at the nursery before you buy to make sure the tree you choose is the right one for your location.

 

Trees and Shrubs


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