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Tilia americana var. heterophylla is often confused with:
Tilia americana Tilia americana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Tilia americana Tilia americana
Viola pubescens Form
Cladrastis kentukea leaves, form and trunk

Tilia americana var. heterophylla

Previously known as:

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

The White Basswood is a large-sized native deciduous tree. The tree has an ovate rounded crown and is used as a dense shade tree. It is a member of the Malvaceae or Linden family. The tree was once considered to be a separate species, but it is currently considered to be a variety of the American Linden. The White Basswood is very similar to the American Linden, except for the dense hairs on the undersides of its leaves, making them appear white. The mature size of the White Basswood is 50 to 120 feet in height. It typically is found growing in ravines, rich hardwood forests, or along streams and rivers. 

Other common names for the tree are Beetree Linden, Linden Tree, and Mountain Basswood. The cultivar of this species, 'Continental Appeal,' has a narrow oval form and is up to 50 feet in height and 30 feet wide. 

The native range of the White Basswood includes portions of southern Pennsylvania to Maryland then running along the Ohio River to Missouri to Mississippi and North Carolina.

The genus name, tilia, is Latin for Linden or Lime Tree. It is derived from the Greek work ptelea meaning 'Elm tree' or tillai meaning 'Black Popular.' The translation means "broad" as in "broad-leaved." The species name, heterophylla, is derived from two Latin words. Hetero means "different," and phylum means "leaves", referring to their unique leaves. The common name, Basswood, is derived from "bastwood," referring to its inner bark that is known as bast.

The tree performs best in full sun to partial shade, loamy, moist, and well-drained soils. The White Basswood is intolerant to urban conditions and air pollution. It is drought tolerant once established.

Stump sprouts are common with this species and can be transplanted. The tree can also be propagated by seeds.

The leaves measure up to 6-inches long and wide with a dark green upper surface and silvery-white undersides. The fall color is pale green to pale yellow. The flowers are fragrant and creamy-colored blossoms that form into clusters. There are 10-25 flowers per cluster. The fruit is a small rounded woody nutlet.

Bees enjoy the nectar of the flowers. Deer enjoy browsing the leaves. Cavity nesting birds, such as wood ducks and woodpeckers, and some small mammals, find shelter in the softwood. Rabbits feed on the seedlings and small saplings, while mice, squirrels, and chipmunks prefer to eat the seeds.

The White Basswood has beautiful, unique foliage and showy, fragrant flowers. The tree would be best used as a shade tree or specimen tree in a residential area or park.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves dark green upper surface and white hairy undersides 
  • Leaves up to 6 inches long and wide, ovate with uneven cordate bases
  • Creamy-colored clusters with 10-25 flowers per cluster
  • Winter twigs and buds are sometimes red-tinged
  • Young bark smooth and light gray white older bark is gray, furrowed, and rough

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: 

There are no serious insect or disease issues. Japanese Beetles, borers, beetles, lace bugs, aphids, caterpillars, and scales may be seen. In hot and dry weather, spider mites can occur.  Verticillium wilt occurs infrequently but can be fatal. Powdery mildew, leaf spots, and cankers may occur. 

 

More information on Tilia americana.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Continental Appeal'
    Narrow oval form; Height 50' and Width 30'
'Continental Appeal'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#honey bees#shade garden#colorful leaves#shelter#low maintenance#winter interest#street tree#cream flowers#native garden#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#bee friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Continental Appeal'
    Narrow oval form; Height 50' and Width 30'
'Continental Appeal'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#honey bees#shade garden#colorful leaves#shelter#low maintenance#winter interest#street tree#cream flowers#native garden#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#bee friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Tilia
    Species:
    americana
    Family:
    Malvaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Furniture, shipping crates, boxes, and veneer are built from the wood of the tree. The inner bark is used to make mats and ropes.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central, eastern, and southern United States
    Distribution:
    USA: AL, AR, DC, FL, GA, IA, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, and WV; Introduced: Canada--New Brunswick and Ontario
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract honeybees for the rich nectar. Rabbits feed on the seedlings and small saplings. Mice, squirrels, and chipmunks eat the seeds, and the leaves are browsed by deer. Small mammals and cavity-nesting birds use the tree for shelter.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Shade
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Drought tolerant
    Edibility:
    Honey made from the nectar of the flowers is very popular. The flowers may be dried and used to make tea. The sap from the tree is used to make syrup.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 120 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Oval
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    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
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a round woody nutlet that ripens in late summer.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The fragrant cream-colored blossoms are arranged in drooping clusters and bloom in June. Each flower has five cream-colored petals and sepals, and each cluster has ten to twenty-five flowers. The cyme is attached to an elongated five-inch floral bract.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Velvety
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Orbicular
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The upper surface of the leaf is dark green. The lower surface is glaucous with dense hairs. The leaves are ovate or orbicular shape with an uneven cordate base and acuminate tips. The leaves are up to 6 inches long and wide. The fall color is pale green to pale yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark on younger trees is smooth and light gray. As the tree matures, the bark is a darker gray, furrowed, and rough.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The young stems are smooth, and during the winter, they may be red-tinged. The winter buds are also red-tinged.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought