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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lindens

The linden tree, Tilia americana, is also called basswood, lime tree, white wood, and bee tree. 


This blog is normally about wildlife, but I'm taking a moment to praise the linden trees that are blossoming in New York right now. In a city not noted for smelling good, the event is a delightful occasion.

Linden trees smell fresh, green, flowery, and sweet -- a little like melon, a little like honey. The smell wafts hauntingly around the trees and spreads on warm breezes. It makes me stop and inhale. It smells so good that I look forward to passing each linden on my daily route, especially a big old tree on the northeast corner of Central Park West at 66th street; its flower-covered branches droop over the sidewalk and diffuse perfume all around.

Lindens are native to eastern North America. They are common in cities, suburbs, and forests, so a lot of places smell good right now. Closely related trees, also called lindens, grow throughout the Northern hemisphere. They are prized for their beauty. Their wood is especially valued by carvers -- linden wood decorates the great cathedrals of Europe. Linden leaves and flowers are used for perfumes and teas. Honey made from linden flowers has a light minty herbal taste that is renowned among honeys.

Aromatherapists use linden to "calm and relax the body and the mind." We could use more of that. We should plant more lindens.

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