Native Tree of the Week – Basswood

Basswood

Our company boasts more tea drinkers than coffee drinkers, so the basswood tree is among our favorites. Why? Because its flowers are often used to produce a sweet, honey-flavored tea that’s among the most popular teas in Europe, and it’s a tree native to southwestern Ontario. This means our homemade teas (see these recipes) are about as local as you can get! And it isn’t just for when you need a nice cup of tea; the basswood (also called linden) tree is also an important pollinator, produces a soft hardwood capable of making electric guitar bodies, and is often planted as an ornamental because of its large leaves and fragrant flowers.

Basswood tree

Basswood tree features

When working with a basswood, we often joke that we could do our trimming “with a butter knife.” Even though basswood is readily available as hardwood lumber, it is one of the softest of the hardwoods, making it easy to work with. The trunk bark is grey to greyish-brown, and is smooth when the tree is young and furrowed when the tree is mature. Trees outside of the forest will often have multiple stems per trunk, and they can live for up to 200 years!

Basswood leaves are wide, toothed around the edges, and extremely nutrient dense. If you have a basswood tree, consider mulching the leaves with a mower instead of raking and bagging them. You won’t need to buy fertilizer and your lawn and trees will be happy.

Basswoods’ fragrant yellow flowers bloom in midsummer when most other trees’ flowers are long gone, giving them a special pollinator relationship with our bees. Basswood honey is esteemed for its taste and its professed health benefits, including as a cough suppressant and a digestive aid. The medicinal uses for basswood are extensive: First Nations peoples used components from the basswood tree for everything from mouthwash to burn ointments.

Basswood leaf

Plant a basswood tree

The basswood is an excellent choice if you’re planting a native garden. The roots prefer moist but well-drained soils, and basswoods grow best in full sun. The tree can grow to 40 meters tall and 8 meters wide, so make sure you plant your tree in a space where it has plenty of room to grow, and don’t plant it under power lines. Rabbits can be a nuisance to basswood trees, so if your yard is frequented by furry friends use these tips or others for reducing your rabbit problems. Basswoods are fairly low-maintenance trees, but when you do need help with your basswood, give us a call and we’ll be happy to care for your tree.

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