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Tilia americana var. heterophylla

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Tilia americana var. heterophylla
Phonetic Spelling
TIL-ee-uh a-mer-ih-KAY-nah het-er-oh-FIL-uh

Tilia americana, commonly called American basswood or American linden, is a medium to large deciduous tree which typically grows to 50-80’ (infrequently to over 100’) tall with an ovate-rounded crown. It is native to a variety of habitats from Quebec to the southeastern corner of Manitoba and far eastern North Dakota south to Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Carolina, with concentrations in forested areas of the Appalachian Mountains and along the Ohio River Valley to Missouri. Trees are found in both dry upland areas as well as moist, low woods.  The bark is smooth and gray/green in young trees.  As the tree ages, the bark turns gray/brown and develops shallow furrows and fibrous flat-top ridges.

The common name of basswood is derived from bastwood, in reference to the tough inner bark (bast) which has been used to make rope and mats. Trees are commercially harvested, particularly in the Great Lakes region, for their light wood which is used to make such items as furniture, shipping crates, boxes, and veneer. The common name of linden plus the family name of Linneaus (famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus was ennobled as Carl von Linne) both derive from lind which is the Swedish word for a linden tree.

When a tree is in full bloom, bees often visit in such abundant numbers that humming can be heard many feet from the tree.   It does not tolerate air pollution or urban conditions. When injured the tree produces a sweet mucilaginous sap.

This tree is noted for its (a) cymes of fragrant, pale yellow, late spring flowers, (b) small nutlets which follow the flowers and ripen by late summer, (c) mucilaginous sap, (d) noticeable winter buds, and (e) large ovate dark green leaves (to 6” long) with acuminate tips, serrate margins, often silvery undersides and uneven cordate bases.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont

Seasons of Interest:

     Bloom: Late spring (June)  Fruit (Nut): Early summer  Buds/twigs:  Winter, tinged red

Flowers:  Frequent consumption of tea made with the honey-flavored flowers can cause heart damage.

Wildlife:  This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  It is a host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.  Butterflies and other insects nectar at the flowers.  Songbirds and small mammals eat the seeds.  Old trees often contain hollows used for cover by wildlife.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Verticillium wilt is infrequent, but can be fatal. Powdery mildew, leaf spots, and cankers may occur. Insect visitors include borers, beetles, lacebugs, caterpillars and scale. Spider mites can do significant damage, particularly in hot, dry periods.  Powdery mildew, leaf spots, and cankers may occur.  This tree does not survive well in city conditions. 

Try these trees for urban environments:  T. cordataT. tomentosa 

Formerly known as Tilia heterophylla.

More information on Tilia americana.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
#fragrant#deciduous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#shade tolerant#tree#honey bees#low maintenance#winter interest#street tree#native garden#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#bee friendly
Cultivars / Varieties:
#fragrant#deciduous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#shade tolerant#tree#honey bees#low maintenance#winter interest#street tree#native garden#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#bee friendly
  • Attributes:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Flower Bloom Time:
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Leaf Color:
    Leaf Shape:
    Leaf Margin:
    Hairs Present:
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden