American Linden (also known as Basswood) is a gorgeous tree. It grows in a pyramidal shape (rare for a deciduous tree) and has interesting off-center, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are edible when young and the blossoms can be used to make a fragrant tea. The seeds, or nutlets, are also edible – though very hard and require processing.
All of that aside – its best asset are its flowers. Bees love this tree. In the summer, you can smell basswood trees from a distance. They emit a very strong perfume. It’s very floral. Pleasant but strong. And if you look up into a tree, you will see bees. Lots of bees.
This should not scare anyone away from owning a basswood because when its flowers are full of nectar, the bees are so focused on getting that nectar that they will never even notice you. Try to get a bee’s attention while it is working a basswood tree. Seriously, try it. They will be oblivious to your existence. There is so much nectar in one basswood tree and so many flowers. It is a very important food source for honey bees and native bees.
Want to plant an American Linden tree? Good news – they grow easily and quickly from seed. They are native to the United States and do well in almost all of our climates.
We have basswoods growing in an environment that is not preferred by the tree (on a sand prairie) but in this case we grow them near our lake and forest edges where the ground is more reliably moist. If you have clay or a wetter (but not water logged) environment, they should be very happy.
They can “stand alone” or exist in a forest situation – especially among maples, oaks, and ironwoods.
This article is part of our “trees for bees” series where we feature trees/shrubs that are excellent pollinator forage