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TILIA americana

Image of Tilia americana

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Tiliaceae

Botanical Name

TILIA americana

Plant Common Name

American Basswood

General Description

One of the queens of eastern North America's deciduous forests, basswood has large heart-like leaves, deliciously fragrant summertime flowers and an overall majestic structure. A large deciduous tree with a straight trunk, it is more cone-shaped when youthful but matures to a large, rounded to wide-spreading specimen. The bark is gray and smooth at first, becoming gray-brown with distinctive long, furrowed ridges.

In early summer it bears conspicuous, pale greenish yellow flower bracts and clusters of small, yellowish, highly fragrant flowers. They are attractive to honeybees, which make a distinctively flavored honey from the nectar. The fuzzy, whitish yellow nutlets dangled downward with a papery bract (modified leaf) and are most prominent in late summer. Its leaves are large, heart-shaped, dark green above and lighter green below. In autumn, the leaves unevenly change to unspectacular shades of yellow-green and brown.

American basswood tolerates acidic soils but excels in deep, moist but well-drained, humus-rich, neutral to sweet (alkaline) soils. Tolerant of moderate drought, it usually dulls or browns its leaves if water is severely lacking. It is suitable as a shade tree, very large avenue tree, and for a naturalized shade tree. Do not place too closely to paved surfaces used for walkways or play areas as the fallen nutlets can be hazardous. The dense shade cast under the basswood also can cause many underplantings, including turfgrass, to die out. Remove basal suckers (twig sprouts) from the trunk to keep the tree looking tidy and clean.

Several cultivars are available including 'Boulevard', 'Redmond' and 'Wandell' (Legendâ„¢). These slightly smaller growing trees are better suited for typical urban street tree applications and are more ornamental in either their cleaner yellow fall foliage or colorful twigs. Variety heterophylla, the white basswood, differs from the parent species only in that its leaves' undersides are more prominently fuzzy with white hairs. Some botanists simply place this variety into the main species without special recognition.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    50'-80' / 15.2m - 24.4m

  • Width

    25'-50' / 7.6m - 15.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer

  • Native To

    North America, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Texas, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Yellow, Brown, Ivory

  • Bark Color

    Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes