Big-Leaf Linden – Tilia platyphyllos

Big-Leaf Linden – Tilia platyphyllos
Family Tiliaceae – Basswood, Linden, Lime

Live specimens photographed at the Morton Arboretum at Lisle, Illinois.  

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Big-leaf Linden foliage
Asymmetrical heart-shaped leaflets indicative of linden species
Tilia platyphyllos is a deciduous tree native to much of Europe. It is frequently planted as an ornamental tree in parks, or as a shade tree or a lawn tree. It has been naturalized throughout many places in North America, principally in New England and the Midwest, where it is commonly called Big-leaf Linden.

It is a narrowly domed tree with a moderate growth rate, and can (rarely) reach a height of 100 ft. The reddish-brown young stems later develop dark gray bark with fine fissures and furrows. The branches spread upwards at wide angles. The twigs are reddish-green and slightly pubescent.

Big-leaf Linden Tree
This big-leaf linden at The Morton Arboretum is nearly 80 years old.
The foliage consists of simple, alternately arranged leaves. As indicated by its common name, this tree has larger leaves than the related Tilia cordata (little-leaf Linden), 6 to 9 cm (exceptionally 15 cm). They are ovate to cordate, mid to dark green above and below, with white downy hair on the underside, particularly along the veins, tapering into a mucronate tip. The margin is sharply serrate, and the base cordate; the venation is palmate along a midrib. The pubescent petiole is usually 3-4 cm long, but can vary between 1.5-5 cm. The autumn foliage is yellow. [2]

Big-leaf Linden Bark

There are several cultivars offered commercially in nurseries, including 'Rubra' (red twigged) and 'Tortuosa' (twisted branches). Tilia platyphyllos readily hybridises with Tilia cordata, the hybrid being the Common Lime Tilia × europaea (syn. Tilia × vulgaris).

Although Tilia cordata is listed as the preferred medicinal species, T. platyphyllos is also used medicinally and somewhat interchangeably. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Linden tea has a pleasing taste, due to the aromatic volatile oil found in the flowers. The flowers, leaves, wood, and charcoal (obtained from the wood) are used for medicinal purposes. Active ingredients in the linden flowers include flavonoids (which act as antioxidants), volatile oils, and mucilaginous constituents (which soothe and reduce inflammation). The plant also contains tannins that can act as an astringent. [1]

Big Linden Leaflet
1. Edward Gilman and Dennis Watson, USDA Forest Service ST-637 "Tilia cordata Littleleaf Linden"

2. NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees

Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.

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Family Tiliaceae – Basswoods, Lindens
50 genera and 400 species; widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, with relatively few species in temperate regions. Especially abundant in Southeast Asia and Brazil.   The leaves of all the Tilias are heart-shaped and most are asymmetrical, and the tiny fruit, looking like peas, always hang attached to a ribbon-like, greenish bract.  Tree Encyclopedia | Tree Index | Tiliaceae Index