American Basswood (American Linden)

American Basswood (American Linden)

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Tilia americana
Tiliaceae (lindens)

A medium-sized tree with small, horizontal, often drooping branches forming a broad, rounded head.

Leaves alternate, simple, 5–6 inches long, 3–5 inches wide, broadest near the base; margin coarsely toothed; tip pointed, base unequal, rounded; upper surface dark green, shiny; lower surface paler, with tufts of hair in the vein axils.

Bark light brown to gray, with deep furrows and narrow, flat-topped, long ridges that shed small, thin scales. Often with sprouts around the base of older trees.

Twigs slender, smooth, green to brown turning gray with age; pores numerous; winter buds dark red, egg-shaped, ¼ inch long.

Flowers late May–July; 6–15 flowers on a drooping, slender, smooth stalk; stalk attached to a strap-shaped, reduced leaf, 2–5 inches long, ¾-1½ inches wide, smooth, strongly veined; flowers pale yellow to whitish, fragrant, ½ inch in diameter.

Fruit: August–October, dry, persistent, nearly round, ¼ inch long, covered with dense brown hairs.

Height: to 60 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in moist woods on lower slopes, at the base of bluffs and along streams. This tree has a tendency to sprout from its roots, often forming clumps in the wild. Although widely distributed in the state, large populations are rarely encountered. In the eastern states that receive more rainfall and have richer soils, American basswood can reach 130 feet tall.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
A fast-growing, long-lived tree popular for landscaping and along streets, its leaves turn yellow in autumn. The wood is used for carving, musical instruments, woodenware, toys, pulp, furniture and boxes. Native Americans used the fibrous inner bark for making rope, thongs, baskets and mats.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bees make a high-quality honey out of the flowers’ nectar, and the fruit is eaten by many species of birds and rodents. Rabbits and deer browse the foliage.
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