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Tree to 26 m tall. Bark light grey; shallow longitudinal fissures develop by 100 years. Twigs slender (1.5–3 mm thick), green or red-tinged, with patches of white stellate pubescence. Buds large (9 mm long), with one scale visible and a small part of a second, usually glabrous and shining. Leaves 5–11 × 5–10 cm; marginal teeth well-spaced and asymmetric, with a pale mucronate tip 0.3–1.1 mm long; upper surface mid-green, glabrous; lower surface densely covered with a white tomentum of stellate hairs which have mostly 8 or 16 arms. Floral bracts large (6–11 × 0.9–2.5 cm), almost stalkless, pale green with white stellate tomentum on both surfaces. Inflorescence drooping, compact, with 7–20 flowers. Staminodes present. Fruits 9–14 × 7–10 mm, ellipsoidal, strongly mamillate, densely covered with a brown tomentum; wall thick and not breakable between fingers (Pigott 2012, Flora of China 2018).
Distribution China Gansu, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Sichuan
Habitat Mountain forests
USDA Hardiness Zone 6
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
With their dense cover of often 16-armed stellate hairs, the undersides of the leaves of the selections of Tilia oliveri familiar in western collections are the most brilliantly silvery of any lime and perhaps of any tree, though it is a shame that the plant waits until the very end of spring before opening them. The large floral bracts in midsummer, white-hairy on both surfaces, are also perhaps the showiest of the genus. The tree thrives in the UK climate, rapidly forming the even dome common to many lime species: the champions, in the Westonbirt National Arboretum, are two trees both 25 m × 70 cm dbh in 2014, by Specimen Avenue and Pool Avenue, the latter planted in 1943. Another mature tree of 12 m × 66 cm dbh is one of the exciting public plantings in Scarborough’s Peasholm Park on the North Yorkshire coast (Tree Register 2018). An example at Riverhill Park in Kent is festooned in wild mistletoe (Viscum album), a parasitic plant sometimes seen abundantly on T. × europaea. Most of the younger Oliver’s Limes in Britain were propagated by Hillier and Sons from a tree which still survives on the small green at the end of Nursery Gardens on the site of Hillier’s West Hill Nursery in suburban Winchester (Pigott 2012, Tree Register 2018).
CONTINENTAL EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA?