At this time of the year the walk to the hen house and back is a particular delight because of the subtle fragrance in the air. The linden trees are blooming. Lindens are also called basswood or lime trees.
We planted 6 linden trees (Tilia cordata, with cordata referring to the heart shaped leaves) about 18 years ago. Three were for our three daughters, and three for the three (at the time) granddaughters. We chose them because they are known as ‘bee trees’, providing bees with an important nectar source. We have kept bees in the past and are always doing what we can to support honey bees and other pollinators.
We also chose them because of the fragrance. When I was a student at UMass there was one section of the campus that smelled wonderful in July. I could never tell where this elusive fragrance came from. One day I was talking to Dick Bonney, beekeeper and UMass entomologist, and mentioned this mysterious fragrance. He took me to a map of the campus that listed all the trees and their locations. It was the linden trees.
Later my husband and I worked at Williams College where they had a whole row of young lindens, again scenting the summer air with their subtle fragrance.
Unless the branches are low to the ground, as they are at our house, the clusters of tiny pale flowers are not notable or very noticeable; certainly not capable of surrounding one with perfume. It is easy to understand why the British are fond of planting Lime Avenues
Basswood is familiar to those who like to make wooden models or carve wood because it is light and soft. Our trees are Tilia cordata, the variety most used for medicinal purposes. It is not difficult to find lime flower tea in specialty stores. Every year I say I will harvest some of my lime flowers and make my own tea, but every year I miss the perfect harvesting days. As you can see from my photo the flowers are starting to go by.
Lime flowers contain flavonoids which act as antioxidents and some say the tea will protect the liver from damage. The tea is also said to help migraines, but as a sufferer myself, I cannot attest to this at all.
Unfortunately three of the 6 trees have died. One tree was severely damaged by the snowplow one winter, but survived and showed its propensity to coppice, or send up more shoots. We thought a fourth tree was doomed and cut down the main trunk which had been damaged by mites, but again, it coppiced and is doing fine. Only one of the remaining trees has the classic form. All perfume the air.