The American Linden is a handsome tree that works well in most landscape settings in U.S.D.A Zones 3 through 9. The American Linden grows well in full sun or part shade. It prefers moist, fertile, deep soils, but is also tolerant of difficult, dry or heavy soils and shows good drought resistance. The American Linden is considered a medium sized deciduous tree, ultimately reaching a height of 40 to 75 feet. The height of the tree is dependent on the growing site’s fertility and available moisture.
The American Linden possesses many wonderful characteristics. The top of the tree is typically dome shaped, with spreading branches. There are some cultivars that have a narrower shape. American Linden flowers are small, very fragrant and yellowish white. They’re arranged in drooping clusters with a whitish green leaf-like bract. Flowering occurs in early to mid-summer. Pollination is by bees, and in fact is a favorite of the insect when the tree is in bloom. Honey produced from linden blossoms is superb, possessing a mildly spicy flavor. The fruit of the American Linden is a cream colored “nutlet”, which is small and hard and has a downy feel on the outside. American Linden wood is pale brown or sometimes nearly white, light weight and soft with faint close grain. It is clear of knots but does not split easily. The wood is used in the manufacturing of wooden ware, furniture, and is especially useful for wood carving. It is also commonly used in the production of solid body electric guitars because the wood is light, strong and resonant. However, it is usually used for guitars that are painted an opaque color because the lack of notable grain makes an uninteresting candidate for transparent finishes. The bark on mature plants is gray to light brown with narrow, well defined fissures. On juvenile specimens the bark can remain smooth for up to a dozen inches in diameter. The leaves of American Linden are widest near the base and taper to a short tip. Leaf size is 4 to 8 inches long and 3 to four inches wide. In summer the leaves are a darker shade of green on the upper surface than beneath. Leaf edges reveal a series of “teeth” that remind one of a saw. The American Linden turns yellow in the fall season.
Interestingly, the American Linden also has a myriad of medicinal applications. The flowers, leaves and wood are all used in a variety of ways. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and are used to ward against colds, coughs, and infections, in addition to other illnesses. The leaves are used to promote sweating, which will reduce a fever. The wood from an American Linden is burned to charcoal and is ingested to treat intestinal disorders or is used topically to treat edema.
The American Linden is generally not bothered by serious insect or disease pests. However, the Japanese beetle has begun feeding on the foliage in recent years and can cause moderate to severe damage. Ordinarily, this is more of a problem for the European and Asian Linden species than the American. Borer and scale insects may attack stressed trees, but again, the exotic Linden species are affected more often than the American species. Leaf Rust can sometimes cause leaf spotting and leaf fall but there are American Linden cultivars that have proven resistant.
There are several excellent cultivars of the American Linden available in the nursery trade, including ‘Redmond’, ‘Fastigiata’ and ‘Ledgend’. The cultivar ‘Redmond’ grows up to 75 feet tall, has a beautiful pyramidal shape and is drought tolerant. ‘Fastigiata’ has more of a narrow shape and fragrant yellow flowers. ‘Legend’ is resistant to Leaf Rust, pyramidal in shape and grows with a single straight trunk and upright, well spaced branches. One or more of these cultivars are available at most local nurseries. The American Linden is a hardy, very useful native tree in a variety of landscape settings. Because of all these outstanding qualities, the American Linden deserves regular inclusion as a candidate for planting on our “diversified urban tree species list”Harold Hoover Kramer Tree Specialists Board Certified Master Arborist IL-1478B
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