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Tilia americana (American basswood)
Smith, R.W.

Tilia americana

Tilia americana L.

American Basswood, American Linden, Lime Tree, Bee Tree

Tiliaceae (Linden Family)


USDA Symbol: tiam

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (NI)

American Basswood is a stately, wide-spreading tree, 60-80 ft. tall, occasionally growing taller. Conical in its younger form, the crown becomes rounded with age. Broadly oval leaves sometimes change to yellow in fall but often turn brown and become somewhat unsightly. This deciduous tree tends to sprout at the base, producing a clump of tall trees around what was the original tree. Flowers are inconspicuous but fragrant. Large tree with long trunk and a dense crown of many small, often drooping branches and large leaves; frequently has two or more trunks, and sprouts in a circle from a stump.

American Basswood, the northernmost basswood species, is a handsome shade and street tree. When flowering, the trees are full of bees, hence the name "Bee-tree"; this species is favored by bees over others and produces a strongly flavored honey. The soft, light wood is especially useful for making food boxes, yardsticks, furniture, and pulpwood. Indians made ropes and woven mats from the tough fibrous inner bark.


From the Image Gallery

46 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 100 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Tan or brown, nut-like.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: The fragrant, creamy-yellowy flowers are borne on axillary cymes with partially adnate foliaceous bracts.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: MB , NB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: S. Que. to s.e. Man. & e. ND, s. to w. NC, TN, LA & e. TX, with disjunct populations in central Texas
Native Habitat: Upland, deciduous woods; north & east slopes of mesic ravines

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, rich, well-drained, loamy soils.
Conditions Comments: American lindens are used as specimen plants because of their attractive form, leaves and fragrant flowers. The dense shade they create limits ground cover options. The species is susceptible to a variety of disease and insect problems. Foliage-feeding insects are a particular nuisance. Trees grow at a medium to fast rate.


Use Medicinal: A hot bath with basswood flowers, followed by a cup of linden-flower tea, is said to soothe cold symptoms and enhance sleep. The flowers are also used in beauty products. (Kershaw)
Use Other: Native peoples and settlers soaked the inner bark in water to separate its tough fibres, which were then used to make ropes, nets, mats, shoes, clothing and thread. Some tribes carved ritual masks on living trees, then split the masks away to hollow and dry the inside. If the tree survived, the mask was believed to have supernatural powers. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Honey Bees
Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Untreated seeds germinate in 2-3 years. Seeds germinate most easily if fruits are collected as they first turn slightly brown and are planted immediately. Mechanical or chemical pretreatment of the hard pericarp and seed coat hastens germination.
Seed Collection: Seeds germinate most easily if fruits are collected as they first turn slightly brown. For storage, dry seeds and store at room temperature up to two years.
Seed Treatment: Scarify mechanically or soak in concentrated sulfuric acid and moist chill for 3 months.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Tilia americana in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Tilia americana in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Tilia americana


Record Modified: 2023-05-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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