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American Basswood (Tilia americana)

Although not commonly seen at the Arboretum, American Basswood (also known as American Linden) is found throughout the Eastern deciduous forest. Two varieties occur in Tennessee - T. americana v. americana and T. americana v. heterophylla, the latter having a more southerly distribution and distinctive white pubescence on the undersides of its leaves. Basswood typically grows to heights of 60-80 ft tall, but may reach 100 ft or more.

American Basswood Leaves American Basswood Bark American Basswood Nutlets

It has large (4-8 in. long and 3-5 in. wide), toothed, cordate leaves. The smooth, light-colored bark of young trees becomes darker and deeply furrowed with age. In late spring, the yellowish-white flowers appear in drooping clusters subtended by a distinctive strap-like, papery bract. The fragrant flowers are very attractive to bees which produce a distinctive honey from the abundant nectar - the tree is often called "bee tree." The hard gray-brown fruits (nutlets) hang down from the papery bract and may persist into the winter months. In the fall, the nutrient-rich leaves are considered a "soil improver" in contributing calcium, magnesium, nitrogen and phosphorus to the forest soil.

The light, strong wood has many uses, including luggage, children's toys, yard sticks, furniture, musical instrument soundboards, boxes, and pulp. The inner bark is tough and fibrous and has been used as a source of fiber by Native Americans for cordage, basketry, nets, mats, fabric, clothing, and in canoe construction. Basswood is frequently planted as an ornamental and a street tree. Basswood flowers have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, such as making a tea to ease symptoms of colds or promote sleep, and as a component of beauty products.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
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