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Tree to 45 m × 3 m dbh. Trunk often with epicormic sprouts. Bark grey-brown, with irregular knobbly ridges after about 30 years. Twigs red in sun in winter, becoming glabrous. Buds with 2 or 3 visible scales, more or less glabrous. Leaves 7–10 × 6.5–9 cm, suborbicular, shallowly and asymmetrically cordate, slightly rugose; matt green above and paler green and sometimes slightly glossy beneath, rarely glaucous; with a few simple hairs or soon hairless except for large tufts of pale brown hairs under the main vein axils; marginal teeth usually without apiculate tips. Floral bracts very variable, on stalks 0.8–1.8 cm. Inflorescence drooping, normally with 7 flowers but with 9 on vigorous shoots, in an almost umbel-like cyme. Staminodes absent. Fruits 8 mm, spherical when sterile, with dense brown hairs (Pigott 2012).
Distribution Austria Czechia France Germany Greece Hungary Italy Poland Romania Spain Sweden Switzerland Ukraine
Habitat Woodlands, where the parent species grow together (planted in semi-natural settings more widely in Europe).
USDA Hardiness Zone 3-7
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
The name Tilia × europaea covers all hybrids between T. cordata and T. platyphyllos, found in the wild where its parents grow together. In general hybrids differ from T. cordata in their greater vigour, larger leaves, and pendulous inflorescence. They differ from T. platyphyllos in their glabrous branchlets, in having the leaves glabrous beneath except for axillary tufts, more numerous flowers in the inflorescence, and their only faintly ribbed fruits (Bean 1981).
Variation among these hybrids is horticulturally very significant: clones differ in crown form and in their propensity to produce epicormic shoots. Some clones of Common Lime form great masses of epicormic shoots at various heights on the trunk, sometimes covering it entirely, and extending into the lower parts of the crown. Easy propagation by layering, especially of the more ‘sprouty’ variants, means that a few clones have been extensively planted in Europe from the 17th Century onwards, especially in towns and parks (Pigott 2012).
With their hybrid vigour, tolerance of urban pollution and willingness to grow on all soils except the least fertile sands, Common Limes were among the first choice of ornamental trees in Europe until the last few decades. More recently, their tendency to support large aphid populations, whose honeydew is reputed to damage the paintwork of cars parked underneath, has been viewed as a significant drawback to their use in urban settings, but it remains one of the most magnificent trees for parkland or avenue planting.
A few of the ancient village limes of central Europe are Common Lime, such as one in the garden of Zámet, Velké Opatovice, Czech Republic, with the collapsed remains of a trunk about 3.5 m dbh in 2014 (monumentaltrees.com 2018). Larger scale planting began in the 17th Century when nurseries, especially in Holland, began supplying clonal specimens for avenues and parks (Pigott 2012). Huge trees survive from this period in parks in the British Isles, such as the tree at Florencecourt, Co Fermanagh (3.49 m dbh in 2010) and the fragmentary avenue at Bifrons Park, Kent with trees to 3.09 m dbh in 2013 (Tree Register 2018). The tallest specimens in Britain, which are probably the tallest Tilia anywhere in the world, have significantly outgrown any Common Limes recorded on the Continent. These are sprouty, but relatively slender trees: they include one of 46 m at Reelig Glen, a sheltered ravine in the Scottish Highlands surrounded by 60 m Douglas Firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and a line of trees to 43 m tall at Duncombe Park, Yorkshire (Tree Register 2018).
In North America the name is more often seen than the tree itself, T. cordata and T. platyphyllos often passing for it (Jacobson 1996). Nevertheless, it has been grown in the eastern United States for long enough for large trees to have been recorded (34 m tall in Elllicott City, MD, 1990; 5.5 m girth in Germantown, PA, 1970 – Jacobson 1996).
Pigott (2012) identifies two clonal groups which have been historically important in Western Europe. The first, named Kaiserlinde Group by Jablonski & Plietzsch (2014) includes the old cultivars ‘Pallida’, ‘Koningslinde’, ‘Kaiserlinde’ and several more recent ones. These produce masses of epicormic shoots and have trunks which are typically expanded at the base and divide at 8-10 m into several vertical stems. A second group includes ‘Zwarte Linde’ and ‘Hatfield’; these produce few epicormic shoots and typically have a cylindrical trunk which divides into diverging branches. Other groups exist, including a type common in Moscow which is not known in Western Europe (Pigott 2012).
A tree with few epicormic shoots, although it may produce some sprouts from the base. Twigs are dull green, becoming red on the exposed side in winter. Trunk typically cylindric, dividing into two or three gradually diverging limbs, forming a dense, ellipsoidal crown (Pigott 2012). A recent name for a historical clone, significant because the tree itself and the landscapes in which it was planted are long-lived. Probably of Dutch origin, it was widely planted in British parks between about 1690 and 1720, sometimes mixed with ‘Pallida’ as in avenues at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire (Pigott 2012). ‘Zwarte Linde’ is broadly similar but has dark grey-brown twigs and is more densely branching.
This is an old, widely planted European clone, or perhaps a group of very similar clones. In Britain it is universally known as ‘Pallida’. The twigs are green in summer, becoming red or orange on the exposed sides in winter. The name ‘Pallida’ probably refers to the rather pale green undersides of the leaves. The trunk is typically expanded at the base and produces many epicormic shoots from the base to the lower canopy. Over many years clusters of epicormic buds may become hemispherical bosses as much as 40 cm across; the trunk can be quite obscured by sprouts if not controlled. In youth, ‘Pallida’ has the elegant, lightly-branched, domed habit typical of most Tilia, but often develops a highly distinctive mature form, with a tower shape of short branches spreading irregularly from three or four almost vertical major limbs. After perhaps 200 years, the crown generally deteriorates, with a great deal of death in the upper parts; old avenues generate a litter of heavy, dead branches at a troublesome rate (J. Grimshaw pers. comm. 2020). Distributed by Dutch nurseries from the 16th Century onwards, this is the typical Common Lime of the British landscape (Pigott 2012, Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013, 2014).
‘Koningslinde’ (Dutch) and ‘Kaiserlinde’ (German) are, at the very least, extremely similar to ‘Pallida’ (Pigott 2012). Tree nurseries have sometimes propagated from particularly good specimens under other clonal names; this at the very least guarantees uniformity. Such names include ’ Erkelenz’, ‘Lappen’ (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013, 2014) and ‘Eleonora’ = Kristina® (E-planta 2020). The very distinct golden-leaved ‘Wratislaviensis’ (q.v.) also belongs here.
Oval crown, pale green leaves and greenish-yellow shoots, selected by J. Timm and Co., Germany around 1930 (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013).
See Kaiserlinde Group.
This name has been used for old trees with gracefully drooping branches at the Glasnevin National Botanic Garden, Dublin (1888 planting, 24 m x 72 cm dbh in 2012) and at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (1903 accession, 19.5 m x 60 cm. dbh in 2014 – Tree Register 2018). The name, although dating from 1903, might be invalid; moreover there has been ongoing doubt over whether this plant belongs to T. × europaea or T. americana (Santamour & McArdle 1985, Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013). The Edinburgh tree appears to be T. americana ‘Pendula’ (q.v.) – O. Johnson, pers. obs.; the Glasnevin tree has not been examined for this account.
The Golden Lime was found in 1898 in Wrocław (Breslau), Poland (Santamour & McArdle 1985). Now widely propagated by European nurseries and grown in North America, it has become popular in Britain in recent decades. A sport from a tree of the Kaiserlinde Group, it has so far maintained an elegantly domed and clean-limbed habit. The foliage is a lovely soft greenish gold in spring; through summer the older leaves darken to green, while the newest growths are butter-yellow. Mature trees, making little summer growth, are presumably less showy. It is unusually vigorous for a golden-leaved tree, reaching 15 x 0.55 m dbh at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens by 2017 (Tree Register 2018). Similar or identical named clones include: ‘Aurea Vik’, ‘Gocrozam’ (Goldcrown®), and ‘Jubilee’(Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013, Jacobson 1996, Esveld nursery 2018).
The Dutch ‘Black Lime’ has very dark grey-brown bark on the young twigs. It produces few epicormic shoots on the trunk, although it may sprout from the base to some extent. The trunk is typically cylindrical, with spreading lower branches and diverging upper branches, giving a broadly ovoid crown, rounded at the summit (Bean 1981, Pigott 2012). Distibuted by Dutch nurseries since the 16th Century, it was widely planted in the Netherlands and may still be seen alongside many of the canals in Amsterdam, and exported to Germany, Sweden and probably elsewhere. It was rarely planted in Britain, unlike ‘Hatfield’ which is broadly similar but with reddish green twigs and less dense branches (Pigott 2012). ‘Ovedskloster’ (Sweden, 2005, from an 18th Century avenue of Pallida Group) is similar (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013).