Tilia americana L.

American linden

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

American linden or basswood is the only tall tree among the New England members of the mallow family (Malvaceae). And a grand tree it is, one of the most commonly planted, statuesque street trees. Young leaves of this species have star-shaped (stellate) hairs on the upper surfaces. The leaves of Tilia species have rounded bases that are asymmetrical on either side of the petiole. Tilia wood is light and easy to work; it is made into yardsticks, crates, parts for musical instruments, cabinets and pulp. The inner bark is very fibrous and excellent for weaving baskets and rope. Trunks often develop cavities, which become nesting sites for woodpeckers and other animals. The flowers are very fragrant and their nectar attracts bees that convert it to good honey.

Habitat

Floodplain (river or stream floodplains), forests

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a tree
Leaf type
the leaf blade is simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf blade length
70–200 mm
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is fleshy
Bark texture
  • the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
  • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
Twig winter color
  • brown
  • gray
  • red
Bud scale number
  • there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
  • there are two scales on the winter bud, and their edges meet
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    • there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
    • there are two scales on the winter bud, and their edges meet
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Leaf scar arrangement
    there is one leaf scar per node on the stem or twig
    Terminal bud
    there is no terminal bud on the branch
    Winter bud stalks
    the winter buds have no stalks
  • Flowers
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower petal color
    white
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Inflorescence hairs
    there are no hairs on the inflorescence
    Inflorescence type
    • the flowers grow out of the axil (point where a branch or leaf is attached to the main stem)
    • the inflorescence is a dichasial cyme (an axis with a terminal flower, below it a pair of branches, each with a terminal flower, these branches may in turn each have a pair of branches and so on)
    Number of pistils
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble leaves in color and texture
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Sepal tip glands
    there are no glands at the tips of the sepal lobes
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Stamen number
    • 10
    • 11
    • 12
    • 13 or more
    Stamen position relative to petals
    the stamens are positioned opposite the petals (antepetalous)
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are fused to one another at or near their bases
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is fleshy
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a drupe (fleshy, with a firm inner ovary wall that encloses a single seed)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is clear and watery
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a tree
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    • the underside of the leaf has hairs on it
    • the underside of the leaf has no hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    • The base of the leaf blade is cordate (heart-shaped, with rounded lobes)
    • the base of the leaf blade is truncate (ends abruptly in a more or less straight line as though cut off)
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is asymmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    at least some of the hairs on the leaf blade are branched
    Leaf blade length
    70–200 mm
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is orbicular (roughly circular, as wide as long)
    • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the main veins of the leaf blade are palmate (radiate out from the base, like a hand)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has three or more main veins running from the base (or near the base) towards the tip
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the plant is broad-leaved (with broadly flattened leaf blades)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    there are no nectaries on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk shape
    the leaf stalk is not flattened
    Leaf teeth
    the leaf blade margin is serrate (with forward-pointing teeth) or dentate (with outward-pointing teeth)
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Stipules
    the plant has stipules
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • forests
    • river or stream floodplains
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor, or it has an unpleasant or repellant odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    • the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
    • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    NA
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Lenticels on twigs
    there are clearly lenticels on the twigs
    Short shoots
    there are no peg- or knob-like shoots present
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hairs
    the twigs have few or no hairs on them
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig scales
    there are no scales on the twig surface
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • gray
    • red
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
absent
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
absent
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
absent

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. americana

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. heterophylla

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Tilia cordata:
leaf blades mostly 3-9 cm long and fruit 4.5-6.6 mm long (vs. T. americana, with leaf blades 7-20 cm long and fruit mostly 6-8 mm long).

Synonyms

  • Tilia americana var. neglecta (Spach) Fosberg
  • Tilia glabra Vent.
  • Tilia neglecta Spach

Family

Malvaceae

Genus

Tilia

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Tilia americana L. var. americana is native and known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. T. americana var. heterophylla (Vent.) Loud. is non-native and known from MA, ME.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Tilia americana L. n

American linden.  1a. Tilia americana L. var. neglecta (Spach) Fosberg; T. glabra Vent.; 
 T. neglecta Spach;  1b. Tilia heterophylla Vent.; T. heterophylla Vent. var. michauxii (Nutt.) Sarg.; T. michauxii Nutt.; T. monticola Sarg. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Mesic, deciduous forests, including rich and riparian types. Tilia neglecta is a phase of T. americana var. americana in which the abaxial surface of the leaf blades has a sparse covering of stellate hairs; however, other features (e.g., peduncle and pedicel indumentum) are as in var. americana.

1a.  Leaf blades pubescent with bulbous glands, slender hairs, and sometimes scattered stellate hairs on the abaxial surface; peduncles and pedicels glabrous or sparsely puberulent in fruit … 1a. T. americana var. americana

1b.  Leaf blades densely pubescent with stellate hairs on the abaxial surface (rarely becoming puberulent in age, but stellate hairs persisting along the major veins); peduncles and pedicels pubescent with stellate hairs in fruit … 1b. T. americana var. heterophylla (Vent.) Loud.

Variety americana is native and known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Variety heterophylla is non-native and known from MA, ME.