Tilia x europaea

The Common lime tree is believed to be a natural hybrid between two wild kinds that are rare in Britain, though frequent on the Continent One of these is the Broad-leaved lime, 7Ilia pktyphyl-los, and the other is the Small-leaved lime, T, cordata. Native limes can be found growing wild in a few rocky woods along the Welsh Borders, in the Lake District and in Yorkshire, but only in spots where their seedlings have escaped the teeth of sheep. Common lime is usually cultivated, being increased by cuttings, lime seeds lie dormant for 18 months after ripening, and then produce apair of oddly-shaped seed-leaves. lobed like the fingers of a hand, followed by normal foliage.

All the lime trees of the Tilia genus have features that make their identification easy. Every bud shows two scales on its outer surface, one being larger than the other, rather like a finger and thumb. Buds and leaves are alternately set on rather zig-zag twigs which are often tinged crimson above. Leaves are shaped like a conventional heart and are often oblique at the base. They are long-stalked, soft-textured and pale green, with toothed edges.

Flowers are borne in july, in bunches on long stalks that have a very peculiar feature - a large oblong leafy bract attached to the stalk for half its length. Each separate bloom stands on an individual stalk and has five green sepals, five yellowish-white petals, a large number of stamens and a one-chambered ovary that bears five stigmas on a single style.

Pollination is done by insects, and beekeepers regard lime trees as a rich source of nectar and hence of honey. On the Continent the Sowers are dried and used to make a fragrant and refreshing tea. Each flower ripens, by September, a nut-like fruit which is grey, round and hard, and holds a single seed.

figure 105

Winter twig of lime, with rounded buds set alternately on somewhat zig-zag twigs (life size).

Left single bud, showing only two outer scales, in a *finger-and-thumb pattern (X4).

Lime wood is pale yellowish-cream in colour, with no obvious grain or figure. It is moderately hard, works to a smooth finish, and is very stable when seasoned. This fits it for a few exacting uses, such as piano keys, hat blocks, shoe lasts, and decorative carving. It was used, in the 17th century, by Grinling Gibbons for his masterpieces of wood sculpture.

Limes are no longer grown commercially, and the small amount of timber used comes from ornamental trees. They are widely planted in streets, parks and gardens for their pleasing foliage. Umes tolerate a severe degree of pruning, but the common lime usually forms bushy outgrowths of twigs at the base of the trunk.

Lime bark is pale grey and smooth. Its fibres are so strong that they were once used for ropes, and gardeners still occasionally employ it for binding up bundles of plants, it is called 'bass' or 'bast' and in America the wood of the lime is known as 'bass-wood.' The lime is also known, on both sides of the Atlantic by its older name of 'linden,'

The second tallest broadleaved tree in Britain is a lime in Duncombe Park, close to Helmsley in Yorkshire, which scales 46m. The stoutest recorded lime stands at East Carlton Park, Northants, and is 6.70m round (2.10m diameter).

figure 106

Foliage and ripening fruits of lime in September ¡X?), figure 106

Foliage and ripening fruits of lime in September ¡X?), figure 107

Lime seedling showing the seed-leaves with finger-like lobes (Xi).

Tilia Europaea


Lime foliage and flowers in July, life size. Leaves are long-stalked and heart-shaped, and some have an oblique base. Flowers are carried in dusters on a long stalk with a leafy bract attached. Single flower (right x 5) has five sepals, many stamens and a pistil tipped with five stigmas.

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