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American basswood is native to the Chicago area and is often used as a specimen or dense shade tree. Its heart-shaped leaves and fragrant flowers in June make it especially attractive for people, while songbirds and blue jays are attracted to its seeds and use the tree for shelter.  

American basswood is native to the Chicago area and is often used as a specimen or dense shade tree. Its heart-shaped leaves and fragrant flowers in June make it especially attractive for people, while songbirds and blue jays are attracted to its seeds and use the tree for shelter.  

  • Family (English) Linden
  • Family (botanic) Tiliaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 60-80 feet
  • Mature width 30-60 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Yellow
  • Shape or form Oval, Pyramidal, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Highly susceptible to ice damage
  • Wildlife Game mammals, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 5, Native to the Chicago region

Bark color and texture:

The bark is gray, ridged and furrowed. 

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple, alternate, heart-shaped leaves range from 4 to 8 inches long.  Margins are coarsely toothed.  Summer color is dark green above and lighter green on the lower surface.  Fall color is pale yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Creamy yellow flowers in hanging clusters (5 to 10 flowers per cluster) in early summer.  Each cluster is accompanied by a long, strap-shaped bract.  Very fragrant.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruits are small, round nutlets, accompanied by a long strap-like bract.

Plant care:

The American basswood grows best in moist, well-drained soils and is adaptable to alkaline soils.

Disease, pests, and problems:

American basswood is susceptible to aphids, Japanese beetles, linden borer, anthracnose and verticillium wilt.

“These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.”

American Sentry® American basswood(Tilia americana ‘MckSentry’)

This cultivar has a very symmetrical (pyramidal) canopy.  Growing 45 feet high and 30 feet wide, it is reported to have some resistance to Japanese beetles.

Boulevard American basswood(Tilia americana ‘Boulevard’):

At 50 feet high by 25 feet wide, this cultivar has a narrow, pyramidal habit.

Legend American basswood(Tilia americana ‘DTR 123’):  

A pyramidal cultivar with good branching structure.  Thick, green leaves look good in late summer.  Winter stems and buds are bright red.

Redmond American basswood (Tilia americana ‘Redmond’): 

‘Redmond’ is a dense, pyramidal cultivar.  (Formerly classified as Tilia x euchlora ‘Redmond’).

var. heterophylla white basswood (Tilia americana var. heterophylla):

This tree, once considered a separate species, is now considered a variety of the American linden.  It is known as white basswood or beetree linden.  It is very similar to American linden, except that the lower sides of the leaves are covered with dense hairs, giving a white appearance.

Continental Appeal™ white basswood (Tilia americana var. heterophylla ‘Continental Appeal’):  This tree has a narrow, oval form, growing 50 feet high by 30 feet wide.  Leaves have a dark green upper surface and a white lower surface.

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