Basswood
Tilia americana

Location in Ontario
Basswood grows throughout the Deciduous Forest Region, and northward. It is very adaptable and grows in a wide variety of habitats; swamps, sand dunes, flood plains or rocky outcrops.



Basswood growing along the shore of Pelee Island.
 
Genus Tilia
Leaves are simple and alternate. They are heart shaped with asymmetrical bases. Flowers are perfect and fragrant. A large bract is joined to clusters of flowers and fruit. Fruit is round and nut-like with a single seed. The wood is soft and weak. Basswood is the only Tilia species in Ontario.
 
In the Landscape

Basswood is a large tree, growing up to 35 metres and living to 200 years old. It is a large, fast growing shade tree with an attractive shape. It has pretty flowers and interesting fruit. It is often planted along urban streets.
 
TREE FACT: Basswood is also known as American Linden, or "Lime", an English variation of Linden. The name Basswood is a version of "Bastwood", referring to the use of the inner bark, or bast, for baskets and rope.

 

Open grown Basswood trees, Rock Point Provincial Park
 
Leaves
The leaves are alternate and roughly heart shaped, but asymmetrical. The edges have sharp  teeth.  Leaves turn yellow and brown in the fall. Basswood leaves have high contents of nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Bark
The bark is grayish-brown, with flat-topped ridges. It is often covered with neat rows of holes drilled by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, as shown in the picture.
Flowers
Basswood is monoecious with perfect flowers. The flowers are fragrant and creamy yellow, in groups on long stems. Flowers appear in early summer and are pollinated by insects, mainly bees flies and moths.
Fruit
Round, greenish nutlets covered with brown hairs hang in clusters, attached to a long bract (a special type of leaf). The purpose of the bract is unclear, but may aid in wind dispersal. The seeds appear in summer and mature in October. The fruit is an important food source for small mammals and birds. Basswood begins to produce seeds after about 15 years of growth, and produces good seed crops most years.

TREE FACT: Basswood is also known as the "Bee Tree". Basswood honey has excellent flavour.

TREE FACT: Flowers and immature fruit can be made into a paste with a taste similar to chocolate.

Wood
The wood is light and soft. It is prized for wood carving.
Specific Gravity: 0.32
Janka Hardness: 410 lb

Wood Comparison Chart


Basswood flowers covering the pavement, Rondeau Provincial Park

Link to United States Forest Service Silvics Manual for Basswood.

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