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Little-Leaf Linden Tilia cordata

Previously known as:

  • Tilia microphylla
  • Tilia ulmifolia
Phonetic Spelling
TIL-ee-uh kor-DAY-tuh
Description

The Littleleaf Linden is a medium to a large-size broadleaf deciduous tree. It is a member of the Malvaceae family. Many consider it to be the best of all the Lindens. It has been widely planted in the United States as an ornamental shade tree. It has a formal appearance, pyramidal to an oval shape, and offers dense shade. The tree has often been planted inappropriately s a street tree. The result is stunted growth, leaf scorch, and windthrow. Other common names are Small Leaf Lime Tree, Little-Leaf Linden, and Small-leaved Lime. The most common cultivar is 'Greenspire' which is more urban tolerant than any of the other cultivars.

The Littleleaf Linden is a native of Europe to Western Siberia and Iran. The tree dates back to 760 AD. 

The genus name tilia is Latin for Linden and Lime Tree. It is derived from the Greek word ptelea meaning "Elm tree" or tillai meaning "Black Poplar." The translation means "broad" as in "broad-leaved."The species name cordata is Latin for "heart-shaped."

The tree prefers full sun to partial shade, loamy, moist, and well-drained soils. The tree needs to be watered during dry spells especially if they are very young. At maturity, the tree grows to a height of 50-70 feet and spread to 50 feet. The tree has a medium growth rate. If the tree is stressed, the growth rate is much slower. It does not tolerate wet conditions, severe drought, pollution, or salt spray. It can tolerate heavy pruning.

Propagation is mostly done by grafting stem cuttings onto rootstock.

The leaves are light to dark green with paler undersides. They have an ovate shape with a cordate base. The fall color is chartreuse. If the tree is under stress, the leaves are sometimes golden yellow. The flowers are fragrant and creamy yellow clusters that blossom in the summer. The fruit is a small hairy nutlet.

The flowers are rich in nectar and attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. The tree's softwood creates nesting sites for cavity-dwelling birds.

The Littleleaf Linden is best used as an ornamental shade tree as a focal point in a lawn. In Europe, the tree is trimmed to form hedges or screens.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leave have light to dark green upper surface and a lighter shade beneath
  • Leaves 1.5 to 3 inches long and wide, serrated margins
  • Creamy-colored clusters with 5-7 flowers per cluster
  • Small, rounded hairy, tan nutlet late summer
  • Young bark grayish-brown and furrowed and older bark dark gray, deep furrows, and ridges 

Disease, Insects, and Other Problems:

There are serious insect and disease problems.  Be aware that the Japanese Beetles can skeletonize the foliage. Mature trees have been destroyed by a heavy infestation.  It would be best not to plant this tree in areas that have a heavy infestation of Japanese Beetles. Other insects that may be seen include borers, scale, leaf miners, lace bugs, caterpillars, and aphids. Spider mites can occur in hot and dry weather.

Powdery mildew, leaf spots, and canker are possible. Verticillium Wilt does not occur often, but it can be fatal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bailey'
    More open crown, 50' tall, 30' wide
  • 'Chancellor'
    More compact 50' tall
  • 'Corzam'
    Narrow pyramidal shape, 45' tall, 15' wide
  • 'Fairview'
    Rapid growing, thicker foliage, 60' tall
  • 'Glenleven'
    Fast growing, now classified as Tilia x flavenscens
  • 'Greenspire'
    Most common cultivar, urban tolerant, compact, 40' tall
  • 'Halka'
    Compact, 20' tall, 15' wide
'Bailey', 'Chancellor', 'Corzam', 'Fairview', 'Glenleven', 'Greenspire', 'Halka'
Tags:
#cultivars#hummingbirds#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#street tree#hedges#glossy leaves#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#dendrology#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#bee friendly#creamy colored flower
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bailey'
    More open crown, 50' tall, 30' wide
  • 'Chancellor'
    More compact 50' tall
  • 'Corzam'
    Narrow pyramidal shape, 45' tall, 15' wide
  • 'Fairview'
    Rapid growing, thicker foliage, 60' tall
  • 'Glenleven'
    Fast growing, now classified as Tilia x flavenscens
  • 'Greenspire'
    Most common cultivar, urban tolerant, compact, 40' tall
  • 'Halka'
    Compact, 20' tall, 15' wide
'Bailey', 'Chancellor', 'Corzam', 'Fairview', 'Glenleven', 'Greenspire', 'Halka'
Tags:
#cultivars#hummingbirds#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#street tree#hedges#glossy leaves#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#dendrology#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#bee friendly#creamy colored flower
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Tilia
    Species:
    cordata
    Family:
    Malvaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The Littleleaf Linden has known to have existed as early as 760 AD. In Germanic and Norse countries, it was the favorite tree of Freya, the goodness of love, and Frigga, the goddess of married love and hearth. Maidens would dance and hug the tree in hopes of fertility. In Scandinavia, the tree was to be avoided at night because it was supposedly haunted by elves and fairies.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe to Central Siberia and Northern Iran
    Distribution:
    Native: Albania, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Russia, Corsica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Krasnoyarsk, Krym, Netherlands, North Caucasus, North European Russian, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Southern European Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, West Siberia, and Yugoslavia; Introduced: USA--Illinois, New York, Vermont, Uzbekistan
    Wildlife Value:
    The nectar-rich flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. The bees make excellent honey from this tree. The softwood provides nesting sites for cavity dwelling birds
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Shade
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 35 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    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 pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are small, rounded, hairy nutlets that hang in pendulous clusters. Initially, they are pale green, but they change to light tan as they mature. They are 1/4 inch in diameter and appear in late summer.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Colored Sepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are fragrant creamy yellow colored blossoms that hang from pendulous clusters with 5-7 flowers per cluster. The clusters hang from a long strapped bract. They bloom from June to early July, and their rich nectar attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are light to dark green, semi-glossy on the upper surface, and a lighter color on the underside. The leaves are simple, alternate, and ovate with a wide cordate base. They measure 1.5 to 3 inches long and wide with serrate margins. They are chartreuse colored in the fall, but they may become a golden yellow if the tree is under stress.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark is grayish-brown and lightly furrowed initially. As the tree ages, the bark becomes a dark gray with deep furrows and prominent ridges.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are reddish-brown, smooth, and have a slightly zig-zag pattern. The buds are reddish, oval, and shiny.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators