Winter Tree ID: American Linden

Photo of American Linden trunk

American Linden (Tilia americana), also known as Basswood, grows in river floodplains throughout most of New England, and is a common street tree in some towns. This species has many notable features including edible young leaves, fragrant flowers that can be used for tea and medicine, strong inner bark that can be made into cordage or rope, and light-weight wood that is easy to carve and suitable as the hearth board and drill of a bow-drill fire set.

Photo of American Linden fruit

In late fall, clusters of tan nutlets reveal the presence of mature trees. Some clusters can be found littering the ground, perhaps landing atop freshly fallen snow, while others remain clinging to branches, where they dangle beneath a leaf-like bract that serves as a wind-glider. Despite the built-in glider, in my experience, clusters don't sail far from the parent tree. Where crops are heavy, look for the feeding sign of small mammals and birds.

Photo of American Linden winter buds

Twigs feature rounded, red buds, from which tender, tasty greens will emerge next spring. If you've never met American Linden, now might be a good time to visit a river floodplain and get acquainted.

4 thoughts on “Winter Tree ID: American Linden”

  1. Ooh, I didn’t know about their edible and medicinal uses! I’ve always loved them for their peculiar fruit-hanging-from-leaves deal.

  2. Thanks, Josh, for showcasing American Linden. We have a hardy, elderly one on Basket Island that was in unusually full bloom, this past summer. Despite losing major limbs to carpenter ant infestations, it persists!

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