Linden - Malvaceae - Cultivation, properties and benefits of the lime tree

Linden - Malvaceae - Cultivation, properties and benefits of the lime tree


Note 1

The linden, this beautiful tree grows spontaneously in almost all of Europe up to 1500 m a.s.l. and they are very long-lived plants that can be up to 1000 years old.






: Angiosperms


: Eudicotyledons


: Asteris


: Euroside II











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


Linden belongs to the genus Tilia and to family of TiliaceaeThey are trees that grow spontaneously in almost all of Europe up to 1500 m s.l.m., very long-lived that can even be 1000 years old.

In name it derives from the Greek ptilon «Wing or feather light» due to the bractealateral characteristic of the inflorescence peduncles.

It is a 15 to 30 m tall tree with deciduous leaves, with straight truncated, smooth bark that becomes cracked, greyish and with longitudinal veins when the plant is more than twenty years old. It has the particularity of developing numerous suckers at the base which are normally used for the multiplication of the plant.

The roots are deep and expanded.

The leaves are alternate with a long petiole, heart-shaped, of a more or less intense green color, with serrated edges and a sharp apex and have a light down more or less developed depending on the species.

The flowers are hermaphroditic, very fragrant, of a white-yellowish color, gathered in small bunches carried by a peduncle that starts from the lateral bract which serves to favor the dissemination of the fruits, once ripe, by the wind.

The fruits are shaped like an oval capsule about the size of a pea.

Lime trees are plants used as road trees, giving off a pleasant scent in June or July, during flowering and for medicinal purposes due to their innumerable therapeutic properties.


There are numerous species of lime tree as well as numerous hybrids as they are interfertile plants so we cross each other very easily. For this reason, the identification of individual species is not easy.


Tilia cordata or Tilia parvifolia it is the wild lime tree. It is a plant native to Europe and the Caucasus, widespread in the hilly areas and does not go into the mountains.

It has a sturdy trunk, short, smooth when the plant is young and variously cracked and split when the plant becomes adult with a dense and compact branching. It is usually grown in such a way that it assumes an oconic pyramidal shape and in its natural state it does not exceed 25 m in height.

It is a deciduous species, with dark green and glossy leaves ending in a short tip. The leaves have small tufts of reddish hair at the corners of the ribs on the underside. The flowers have bracts and the leaves are smaller than the Tilia platyphyllos.

It is a species used for its therapeutic properties.


Tilia platyphyllos also known as European tilia or local lime is widespread throughout central and southern Europe.

The leaves are larger than the other species and slightly velvety on the underside and underside with white tufts of hair at the armpit of the ribs and the flowers that are more fragrant than the Tilia cordata.The wood is white, tender, easy to work and very porous.

It is a very long-lived species and is the most used for its therapeutic properties.


American tilia as the name implies, it is native to North America and was introduced in Europe in the mid-1700s.

It is a tree that in its places of origin reaches 35 m in height. The leaves can reach 23 cm with serrated and pointed edges. The flowers, with 5 petals and 5 sepals, are equipped with 5 stems, that is, stems with an anther.

Its wood is typically used for window frames and packaging and is also used for its therapeutic properties.


Tilia intermedia, as the name implies, is a species that has intermediate characteristics between Tilia cordata is Tilia platyphyllos. It differs from Tilia cordata for the leaves that are not glaucous, the flowers are more fragrant and the fruits of larger size with more resistant endocarp. From the Tilia platyphyllos it differs for having the buds, the twigs and the petioles without hairs and for the hairless leaves in the lower page.

From its fabrics a very resistant textile fiber is obtained which was widely used especially in Germany and Russia. The adjective was born from this plant limeyto indicate something hard and tenacious.

It is a species used for its therapeutic properties.


The lime tree is a tree that grows in full sun that adapt quite well to different situations, growing in fact without too many problems even in urban environments and therefore tolerating atmospheric pollution. However, it does not like excessive humidity or too dry soils.

They are very tolerant plants even at low temperatures. In these conditions, however, the seeds do not reach maturity.

Generally it does not need fertilization during its growth, at the moment of the planting the organic substance is added.

It prefers deep, humid, well-draining soils with a tendentially acid pH.

The plants during the winter must be pruned to eliminate the numerous chickens that grow at the base of the plant and to contain its development and give it the desired shape. The cultivated plants are bred so that their height does not exceed 4 m to facilitate the subsequent collection of flowers.


It blooms in the months of June - July, producing very fragrant flowers that are highly sought after by bees as they produce abundant nectar. The seeds ripen in October.


It propagates either by seed or by cutting from the lateral suckers.


If you plan to sow in pots or seedbeds, the seeds should be planted at the beginning of spring in a compost made up of fertile soil and sand.

It would be preferable to use seeds that have not yet lignified their outer integument and sow them as soon as they are harvested in a cold greenhouse. A seed of this type will germinate the following spring although it could take up to 18 months.

If you sow when the external integument has hardened, the germination times become very long, months or even years if you do not intervene with appropriate techniques to interrupt the dormancy of the seed. One method is to stratify the seed for 5 months at high temperatures (around 30 ° C) followed by 5 months of cold temperatures (around 2 ° C).

Once they have germinated, they must be developed in a greenhouse for the first winter and then transplanted to their final location in late spring or early summer.


Much simpler is the multiplication by suckers by taking them at the base of the tree with some roots during the winter and transplanting them immediately.

Suckers have a high rooting capacity.

During the initial period, it is important to keep the soil constantly moist in order to favor a more rapid rooting.

The planting distances are on average 3 m along the row and 4.5-5 m between the row.


There are several pathologies that can affect the lime tree, mainly caused by insects.

The struggle is always problematic as it is limited by the type of environment in which the plant is located (avenues, parks, gardens, etc.); the technical possibility of performing the intervention according to the size of the plant; the lack of specific health aids registered for these plants and therefore the impossibility of using them in public parks.

Appearance on the leaves of irregular spots usually between the veins

These spots tend to necrotize and small cancers form on the young branches. This symptomatology is caused by a fungus, the Gnomonia tiliae (sexed form).

Remedies: the fight is of a chemical type where it is possible at the onset of the first symptoms.

The plant defoliates and characteristic-looking larvae can be seen

This symptomatology is caused by defoliating insects in particular by duelepidoptera, the Limantria dispar (photo on the side) and theEuprocitis chysorrhoea, very common in forest plants. The damage is caused by the larvae which are leaf-eating machines.

Remedies: the fight is chemical (where possible) and biological (using bacteria, for example the Bacillus thuringensis, beetles, diptera or hymenoptera that destroy the larvae) ..

Appearance of small insects especially on the underside of the leaves and in the young branches

It could be Eupulvinaria hydrangeae a cochineal that infests the young branches and the leaves where it lives in colonies on the underside. They are easily recognizable especially when the females are in the reproductive phase as they produce white and elongated visacs that stand out on the green vegetation. Damage, a consequence of severe attacks, leads to defoliation. Plants perish and are more sensitive to other pests.

Remedies: the fight is of a chemical nature, wherever possible.

Presence of small whitish animals on the plant

If you notice small white-yellowish-greenish mobile insects you are almost certainly in the presence of aphidium as they are commonly called lice. Look at them with a magnifying glass and compare them with the photo shown, they are unmistakable, you can't go wrong.

Remedies: treat the plant with specific pesticides readily available from a good nurseryman.


Linden is a highly sought-after plant in herbal medicine for its aromatic properties.

The parts of the plant used are the inflorescences and bracts collected at the beginning of flowering and dried. The bark harvested in spring is also used.

Those responsible for its many properties are essential oils. Other constituents are: flavonoids, coumarins, mucilage, tannins, vitamin C, caffeic acid and sugars.


The linden tree mainly uses the flowers that are harvested at the beginning of flowering (June - July).

Harvesting is normally done by hand by detaching the flower with all the bracts and it must be quite rapid as they have a relatively short flowering period especially in the species American tilia is Tilia platyphyllos.

Once collected, they must be left to dry in a well-ventilated and poorly lit place and then, once dried, they are kept in a sealed glass container protected from light.


See: «Medicinal plants: the lime tree».


The primary food use of this plant is made by bees, providing us with a well-known honey which is widely used all over the world. In fact, an excellent honey is produced which in Italy is produced mainly in the Alps, in the northern Apennines and sometimes, in urban or suburban areas on the cultivated lime trees. It can be mixed with chestnut or honeydew honey. It has a fresh and balsamic smell and a generally sweet taste that can present a bitter aftertaste especially in very pure honeys.

The fragrance of this plant can also be enjoyed by drying the flowers and once crumbled, use them to flavor sweets or syrups. While in Italy it is not a plant widely used in cooking, on the contrary in other countries, for example Spain, it is used instead of chamomile.


It was very famous in Berlin, an avenue of one kilometer in length called Unter den Linden (under the lime trees), wanted by Frederick William I of Prussia which stretched from his castle to the Tiegarten hunting park. In 1700, FedericoI enlarged it making it one of the most important streets of the city. The lime trees have always enlivened this avenue, passing over time from six rows to four. In 1935 they were completely razed to the ground by the Nazis because they hindered the development of military parades and only after the war were they replanted.

The lime tree is not only famous for its countless therapeutic properties but also for its wood used for the manufacture of furniture and with the fibers of its bark, mats, baskets, paper and ropes are made. The seeds contain an oil that tastes and looks similar to that of olive oil and its leaves are used to feed livestock.

Among all the species the


the longest-lived.

We mention centuries-old lime trees such as that of the cemetery of Macugnaga (mountain locality in the province of Verbano Cusio Ossola, Piedmont Region) which is believed to have settled in 1200 with a base circumference of 7 m (photo below) and that of S. Orsoin Aosta present since 1500 .


See: «Linden - The language of flowers and plants».

1. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria license.

Video: Tree Seed for September Planting - Gorgeous Silver Linden