The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Linden

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Edition of 1920. See also Tilia on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

LINDEN, or BASSWOOD, a genus of trees (Tilia) of the family Tiliaceæ, ordinarily known as basswoods in the United States. The species, of which there are about a dozen, are natives of the northern temperate zone and more or less resemble each other in general appearance. They are characterized by alternate, usually heart-shaped, leaves with toothed edges; small yellowish, often fragrant, flowers in cymes, the peduncles of which are attached to membranous bracts; and globular nut-like fruits about the size of peas. The trees, in many horticultural varieties, are widely planted in Europe, where they are known to the English as limes, and in America, for their pleasing form and dense shade, and to some extent also because of their abundant yield of nectar, from which bees make one of the finest qualities of honey. They are also planted for their timber, usually called “whitewood,” which is highly valued on account of its whiteness, lightness, toughness and durability, and is used for turned and carved ornaments and for making honey-boxes and other light articles, the whiteness of which is desired to enhance the appearance of the goods they contain; also extensively used for carriage bodies, cabinet-work and interior parts of furniture. The wood makes a high grade of charcoal, used by druggists, gunpowder-makers and artists. The fibrous inner bark is made into mats and cordage and strips of it are widely used for tying plants, etc. When stock-food is scarce in early spring the twigs and budding shoots are often fed to farm animals, being very mucilaginous and nutritive, though liable, it is said, to injure the quality of butter made from the milk of cows fed upon them. The best-known species are the American basswood (T. americana), a stately tree often exceeding 75 feet in height and 10 feet in girth. Its range extends from New Brunswick to Minnesota and southward to the elevated lands of Georgia and Texas. In the more thickly settled parts of this region it is becoming scarce as a timber tree because of the great demand for its wood. In America it is the most frequently planted species. Owing to confusion in nomenclature, the name “European linden” is applied to at least three species, T. platyphylla, T. vulgaris and T. ulmifolia. The first is most widely planted in America. The last is very late in blossoming and should be more extensively cultivated in order to extend the season of honey production. Lindens all thrive best upon good land. They are easily propagated from seeds, layers and grafts and by “stooling,” the small trees being cut down close to the ground, the sprouts covered with soil and when rooted removed to nursery rows.

In some countries the fibrous inner bark of the linden is separated by soaking in water and manufactured into fishing-nets, mats, shoes and clothing; and the cordage made from it is said to be remarkably strong and elastic. (See Bast). The wood is sometimes cut into thin strips and used in the manufacture of chip hats, which resemble those made of straw.