Linden, the name in all Germanic languages for trees of the genus tilia, its origin being obscure; the same trees are called lime, and by the old English authors lyne or line; they are called in northern Europe bast trees, and in the United States linden, lime, and bass-wood. The botanical name tilia is the ancient Latin one; the genus is the typical one of a large family, the tiliacece, which in the latest revision of genera (Bentham and Hooker) is made to include some 40 genera, almost all of which except tilia are natives of tropical or sub-tropical countries, and are with few exceptions trees or shrubs. The genus tilia consists wholly of trees with large, alternate leaves, which are more or less heart-shaped, and oblique or truncate at the base; deciduous stipules, and flowers in cymes, the peduncle to which is united to a conspicuous leaf-like braet. The flowers have five sepals, and as many petals; the stamens are numerous, and in the European species cohere in five clusters, but in our species they are attached to the base of a petal-like body which stands before each of the proper petals; the pistil has a five-celled ovary, a single style, and a five-toothed stigma; the fruit is a globular, woody nut, which is by abortion one-celled, and one- to two-seeded. The flowers are cream-colored and very fragrant, and as they secrete a large amount of honey the tree is a favorite with bee-keepers both in Europe and America. The amount of honey reported as collected in some apiaries in our western states, situated near basswood forests, seems almost fabulous; honey from this source is highly prized, and the renowned Lithuanian honey owes its excellence to the linden.
The wood of the lindens is light, white, close-grained, and tough, and is well adapted to the uses of the carver and turner; wooden bowls, boxes, etc, are made from it, and it is used in carving figureheads for vessels and other images, to make toys and other small carved wares, as well as for interior decorations, notable examples of which are at Windsor castle and Trinity college, Cambridge; besides these uses, it is employed for the curved portions of staircases, the sounding-boards of pianos, the seats of chairs, and for various other purposes requiring a light wood that will not warp. The inner bark of the trees, known as bast or bass bark, is of quite as much importance as the wood; it is composed of long tough cells, which have given the name of bast to the tissue in whatever plant it may occur. (See Bast.) The great supply of commerce comes from Russia, and as it is exported in the form of mats, it is known as Russia matting or bast mats; these mats are much used for packing furniture and other merchandise; they are a coarsely woven fabric of twisted strands of the inner bark of the linden, and are from 1 1/2 to 2 yards square; a few years ago there were annually exported to England alone 14,000,000 of these mats.
Bast matting is an important accessory in gardening, as strips from it are largely used for tying up plants, and it affords a tying material used in budding for which it is not easy to find a substitute. Bast from the American linden is now sold in the stores, and if properly selected is quite as good as the foreign. The bast of commerce is obtained from comparatively young trees; the bark is stripped whenever it will peel freely, and is thrown into water; after a few days' steeping the layers of the bark will readily separate, when they are pulled apart and hung up to dry; the innermost or youngest layers are of such delicate texture that they are of but little use, while the outer ones are tough but harsh; the layers are consequently assorted for different uses. From this bark the Russians make the mats of commerce, coarse cloth, fishing nets, baskets, ropes, and even the upper part of peasants' shoes. - The American linden (T. Americana) is found over a wide range north and south; its leaves, which vary considerably, are smooth or nearly so; it forms a fine shade tree for ornamental grounds and avenues; its outline is pleasing, its foliage dense, and it resists our hot summers better than the European; the variety pubescens, regarded by some as a distinct species, has its leaves pubescent below.
The white linden, T. heterophylla, is more common in the southwest; it has larger leaves, covered with a silvery down underneath, which gives a pleasing appearance to the tree as its foliage is moved by the wind. The European linden, as has already been mentioned, differs from the American species in the arrangement of its stamens; it is T. Europcea, and is known in nearly a dozen varieties; the normal form has much smaller leaves and its foliage is more dense than in our lindens; some years ago it was largely planted as a street tree in our eastern cities, in imitation of European custom, but it proved so susceptible to the attacks of insects, and ripened its foliage so early, that it is now less popular than formerly. There are red-twigged, fern-leaved, and other varieties, all of which are interesting in a large collection. The lindens are easily multiplied by seed, but the nurserymen resort to the more rapid process of mound layering. (See Layering.)
Linden - Leaf, Flower, and Fruit.
American Linden (Tilia Americana).