The Linden tree is a beautiful and majestic flowering tree. In ancient times, it was believed that overnight under its fragrant branches, people could forget about their sorrows and problems and feel like children again. After her wedding ceremony, a bride’s first thing was to come and sit under a Linden tree. Here she was supposed to be visited by the angel of happiness, who would grant her peace and eternal love.
Linden trees were brought to America by European settlers in the eighteenth century because of their beauty and strong wood structures. No wonder that Lindens have been called the “tree of life.” In literature, they symbolize peace, hope, and healing. Many people enjoy them as shade trees; however, they are also popular landscaping trees.
Linden trees (Tilia) are deciduous trees that grow up to 60-80 feet tall and have opposite, simple leaves with serrated margins. They generally flower in late spring or early summer, and their flowers are white, fragrant, and appear in drooping clusters from leaf axils. The fruit is a flat samara [winged seed]. The word “linden” comes from the old English word, ‘lind,’ or the Latin’ tilia’; both of which means linden tree.
Lindens are medium to fast-growing trees that can be found in a variety of habitats. They can be planted in full sun to partial shade; however, they grow best with some morning sun and afternoon shade. The trees have low to high salt tolerance due to their ability to handle wet soil. Lindens are wind tolerant trees because of their shallow root systems.
While Linden trees can reach heights of 60-80 feet at maturity, they are usually grown as small ornamental shade trees with a maximum height of 20 feet. The most common is the American Linden (Tilia americana), a deciduous with pale green leaves that turn yellow-green in the fall. When planted as a street tree, it must be pruned to allow for traffic and pedestrians to walk through. However, you plan it in your yard, there shouldn’t be a need to prune.
Linden trees are considered a pioneer tree as it is one of the first trees to colonize disturbed areas. The abundance of nutrients causes rapid growth, making linden trees a favorite for landscaping purposes in urban and suburban areas. They are also used to restore forests where they provide shade, wood products, and hold water.
Aside from being beautiful to look at, Linden trees are often associated with fairy tales and poetry. H.C. Andersen, the famous Danish author, wrote a poem in 1838 called ‘The Linden Tree’, where he describes it as “the most lovely tree.” In Russia during World War II, many of the cities were destroyed, leaving abandoned factories and homes. When the war was over, the Russian people planted Linden trees all around the cities. Meanwhile, in Germany, street trees were often Linden trees; they are a symbol of peace.
Linden trees are very beneficial to humans and animals, and insects provide a place to live and food. Lindens are known for their hollow trunks, which make good nesting sites for birds. The dense canopy provides protective cover from the sun and rain, and Linden leaves supply food in late summer when other plants have stopped producing fruits and flowers. Insects drink nectar from the flowers, which attract many different species. A linden tree’s unique structure makes it ideal for nesting songbirds and small mammals. The abundance of food will attract them to your home. Some of the birds that can be found living in Lindens include Eastern Bluebirds, American Kestrels, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and Tufted Titmice. The trees also attract Eastern Cottontails and Gray Squirrels. Lindens are also known to attract bees because of the abundance of flowers.
In addition to being beneficial to humans and animals, linden trees are also valuable for agriculture to produce wood and seeds. In Finland, they have been cultivated as an essential source of pulpwood; the tree is often used for paper products such as newsprint, book pages, cardboard boxes, and egg cartons. Lindens have also been used to make candles, crayons, and soap. The seeds are edible and can be roasted or used to create a strong alcoholic drink called ‘linden tea.’
The maximum age of Lindens is unknown; however, the oldest linden tree in Germany is believed to be about 1,000 years old.
While the beautiful Linden trees at Plum Orchard have not yet reached this incredible age, they are beautiful and provide many benefits to animals and humans. On our property, we have three Linden trees. Our “trees of life” cast peace, hope, and healing from three corners – east, west, and south. We appreciate these trees very much, and we hope you enjoyed this insight into why the Linden is one of the most important trees in history and why it will continue to be appreciated for its beauty and usefulness.
Visit us at Plum Orchard Apartments and see our magnificent Linden trees for yourself!