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January 2020 - Basswood


Basswood leaves         Basswood leaves

The basswood (Tilia americana) is an adaptable native tree with few pests, aromatic flowers and pleasant foliage – some great selling features. A member of the Linden family (Tiliaceae), this common, fast-growing deciduous tree is among the largest of eastern and central North America. Found throughout Southwestern Ontario, it can reach a height of 35 m (114 ft). It can grow as a lone tree or in groves, as it can support several trunks off its base and prolifically sends out shoots from stumps. 

The leaves of the basswood, the largest of all broadleaf trees, are heart-shaped with toothed edges, and are 12 - 20 cm (5 - 8 inches). The upper sides are rich green with a paler underside. Its twigs grow in a zigzag pattern. The bark is gray-brown; older bark divides into long, narrow vertical ridges or plates. In summer, fragrant yellow flowers attract many insect pollinators, especially bees. Basswood seeds are encased in a hard, hairy, grayish-brown nutlike fruit, which is visible hanging from the centre of a leaf-like bract; when released, the bract acts like a helicopter wing to scatter the seeds.

Best Growing Conditions

The basswood is very versatile and can grow in full shade to full sun. It prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil, but can do well in most soils with a wide range of ph.


Basswoods make excellent shade trees on residential streets, in gardens, and in city parks. It is easy to transplant. Mulching the nutrient-rich leaves in the fall with a lawnmower produces excellent fertilizer for one’s lawn. Songbirds, blue jays, and small mammals eat its seeds and use the tree for shelter. Sapsucker woodpeckers love its trunk. It is an important timber tree, valued for its light, easily worked wood. In addition to building, the wood is also great for carving as it doesn't easily splinter. Its wood fibres also make excellent cordage. The tree’s flowers produce an abundance of nectar from which choice honey is made.