Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Isn't This Your Average Urban Tree?

When I moved to Binghamton, in upstate New York, in the 1980's, my first residence was an apartment on Linden Street.

I never gave much thought to a street named after a tree.  In fact, I don't know if there are any linden trees on Linden Street.  But, there are some in the Binghamton neighborhood where I do my exercise walking, several miles away.
Tilia americana, Binghamton, NY
When full grown, it is a majestic tree.  But, as infomercials love to say, "But wait!  There's more!"

This tree is known as the linden, or basswood, here in the United States.  Some in Europe call it the lime tree (not our lime citrus tree, whose name is derived from Arabic). Not only is it a beautiful shade tree, and able to survive urban conditions, but it is a multi use tree.
Young linden tree (the red in the picture not part of this tree)

The wood is excellent for hand carving.

The inside of the bark was used by native Americans for making cords and ropes.

The young leaves are edible in salads.  

Its sap was used by the Native Americans the Europeans called Chippewa or Ojibwa in a way similar to maple syrup  The bloom are edible, too, and have medicinal uses.  A tea can be made from them.  And, the bees love them - if you've ever had basswood honey,this is the tree bees make that from.

(Caution: as usual, be careful when foraging any wild plant.  And, some people are allergic to these flowers.  I am not a wild food expert, and my provided links are for your reading pleasure only.)

The leaves are heart shaped.

This past week, the linden trees in Binghamton were in bloom. These are not large blooms, but they are unusual.  See the little, lighter, elongated things near the blooms?
Here's another view.  These are flower bracts.  They look like wings, don't they?  Some people think they look like tongues.

As the trees age (these trees can live to 200 years old, or even longer) they start to decline.  The holes become shelter for various wildlife.

And, if that wasn't enough, foresters use this tree as a tree "canary", a first signal of environmental change.

What more could you want in a tree?

I've never used this tree for food (I don't own one), but I love looking at them - and I enjoy the brief time when they bloom.

Do you have a favorite tree?  Why?

6 comments:

  1. Interesting information - I didn't know about the linden tree, so thank you for sharing!

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  2. We used to have a Linden tree on the block where I lived as a child. Such a wonderful tree for shade. I wish we had some where I live now.

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  3. I have learn't so much from this post about this tree, thanks for sharing such alot of interesting info.

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  4. I love the linden tree. We used to have a street lined with them when I was a little girl. Thank you for your article. I learned a few things I didn't know. Awesome!

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  5. Had no idea you could eat the leaves. Aren't the flowers very fragrant, also?

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  6. I like any fruit trees myself....used to pick apples as a kid.

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