Tilia americana L. - Basswood

Tilia americana plant

Family - Tiliaceae

Stems - A tree to 40m, with a single trunk or, typically, with more than two.

Tilia americana barkBark of medium-aged tree.

Tilia americana twigWinter twig.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate. Petiole to 10cm long, glabrous. Blade oblique at base, acuminate, serrate, to 20cm long, lower surface lighter green than upper surface and with hairs in tufts in axils of nerves, upper surface mostly glabrous. Teeth of blade with minute cilia on margins.

Tilia americana leaves

Tilia americana budBud and leaf scar close-up.

Inflorescence - Axillary open pendulous cymes from new seasons growth, with 5-8 flowers. Peduncle adnate to white bract for about half it's length, glabrous. Bract to +/-8cm long, to -1.5cm broad, glabrous except for few hairs near axil with peduncle, creamy-white. Pedicels to 7.5mm long, green, 1mm in diameter, glabrous.

Flowers - Petals 5, greenish-white, alternating with sepals, 7.5mm long, 3mm broad, cupped. Stamens many. Filaments white to pale yellow, to 4mm long, glabrous. Anthers yellow, 1mm long. Style 5mm long, mostly glabrous but with tufts of hairs near base. Ovary globose, 2.1mm in diameter, tomentose, 5-locular. Sepals 5, free, ovate-lanceolate, to 6mm long, 3mm broad, greenish white, with nectary at base, (appearing as translucent hump). Fruit ovoid to spherical, 4-5mm in diameter, tomentose, with typically 1 or 2 seeds. Flowers fragrant.

Tilia americana flowers

Tilia americana plant

Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Moist soils along stream banks and pond margins. Also in low woods.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - The wood of this species is highly desirable for furniture making because of its soft yet strong nature and its beautiful white color.
Many cultivated varieties of the genus Tilia are planted in this state, some are from the native trees, some are the European and Asian species. All the trees are visited heavily by insects when blooming.
Steyermark lists two varieties for this species. Variety americana (pictured above) has glabrous petioles, peduncles and bracts. The leaves have hairs in the axils of the nerves. Variety neglecta has stellate and simple hairs on the lower leaf surface with the bracts and peduncles being variously pubescent.

Photographs taken at the Kansas City Zoo, 6-27-00, and at Whetstone Conservation Area, Callaway County, MO., 2-26-04.


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