Tilia × europaea
The Common Linden or Lime is a large, broad, cold hardy deciduous tree, able to reach heights of 35m or more. With its deep spreading root system, it is a robust plant well suited to shelterbelts and hedgerows, as it with stands wind well and tolerates regular cutting. A naturally occurring hybrid between Tilia cordata (small-leaved lime) and Tilia platyphyllos (large-leaved lime), it is the result of cross pollination between the two parent species in the wild. While the Linden prefers well-drained moist soil, it can grow in nutritionally poor and/or wet soils. It will also grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade and can tolerate strong winds but not maritime exposure.
Its heart shaped leaves are edible when young, often used raw in salads and sandwiches, they are mild and mucilaginous. The plants can be kept shrubby through coppicing or pollarding to allow for easier leaf harvesting. Young leaves are produced throughout the growing season on coppiced plants making the Common Linden a handy perennial vegetable. This also allows for harvesting of fodder for livestock or controlled foraging. The foliage is much relished by cattle, both green and dried and made into hay, however it can apparently taint the milk of lactating cows. The leaves are high in nitrogen and phosphorus, similar to those of nitrogen-fixing trees like alders and black locust. They can improve soil structure and fertility over time, acting like a green manure, and increase the earthworm population; they also thought to reduce acidification, raising the pH.
The highly fragrant yellow-white flowers, occurring in late spring to early summer, are well liked by the bees and have long been used for medicinal purposes. Lime-flower tea has been used for many centuries as an antidote to fever in cold and flu sufferers. It is often used in herbal medicine for hypertension, hardening of the arteries, cardiovascular and digestive complaints associated with anxiety, urinary infections, fevers, catarrh, migraine and headaches. The flowers are also used commercially in cosmetics, mouthwashes and bath lotions. They should be picked and dried as soon as they open as they reputedly develop narcotic properties with age.
The immature fruits can be ground up with some flowers to, apparently, produce an edible paste much like chocolate in flavour. The sap is also considered edible, it is tapped and used in the same way as maples. While the tree is prone to suckering, these suckers are straight and flexible, and can be used for basketry (particularly for making handles).