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American Basswood (Tilia americana)

Also known as American linden.

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Summary

A large deciduous tree native to the northeastern and midwestern U.S.

Range - Expand

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Native

This tentative map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data lacks information on Canada, but also overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed or fixed this map.

Similar Plants

Habitat

Common in many forest types but rarely occurs in pure stands and is only occasionally co-dominant with Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). Usually found on rich uplands and slopes, but also found in swamps or floodplains.

Usually limited to loamy soils, including sandy loams and silty loams; grows best on fine-textured soils. Has high nitrogen needs.

Tolerates some flooding.

Intolerant of fire and usually only found on sites protected from fire, but fire conditions are less important than soil and moisture in determining the occurrence of this species on a site.

Seen as a climax species on some sites, and a subclimax species on others.

Life Cycle

Seedlings germinate in shade, and can get established in as much as 25% sunlight. Heavy shade can limit seedling growth.

Trees require at least 15 years, usually longer, before producing seed. Flowers, which form in early summer, are insect-pollinated. Seeds mature in fall; good production occurs at 1-3 year intervals. The relatively heavy seeds tend to fall close to the parent tree.

Seeds form a short-term seed bank, remaining dormant for up to three years. Germination rate of seeds in any particular year is low. Cold dormancy and an acidic environment both seem to facilitate germination.

The wood is weak and subject to rot, even on live trees. However, the root system often persists longer than above-ground parts of the tree.

This species relies heavily on vegetative reproduction, mostly from stump sprouts, and takes advantage of disturbance such as windthrow. Sprouts grow quickly, allowing this species to reach the canopy and compete favorably with more shade-tolerate species.

Maximum lifespan has been estimated at 200 years.

Two other native Tilia species have limited ranges in Ontario; Tilia of European origin, including both pure species and hybrids, are widely planted as street trees and landscaping plants, and have become established in the wild in several locations.

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Tilia americana (American Basswood) | USDA PLANTS Database (About This Site)

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Tilia americana (American Linden) | Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder (About This Site)

American Basswood | Virginia Tech Dendrology Factsheets (About This Site)

American Basswood | Silvics of North America (About This Site)