The Small-Leaved Lime Tree
In the UK, the Small-leaved Lime Tree is associated with ancient woodland and so is, unsurprisingly, becoming increasingly rare and yet deserves wider planting and encouragement.
It was used as avenue planting in the 17th and 18th centuries – famously in Berlin’s Unter den Linden but shares few of the qualities of the Black Locust previously mentioned. The wood is white and soft and so useless except for carving. The tree casts a heavy shade – very useful here as we tend to barbecue beneath it out of the heat of the sun.
However, like the Black Locust, it has a stunning heavy scented blossom that means the whole tree hums with bees and fills our valley with its perfume. Soothing teas are made from the steeped flowers and it provides food for the caterpillars of the Lime Hawkmoth (of course) and various others and is a good food plant for aphids – which in turn provide food for others and so it goes on….
It is the national tree of the Czech and Slovak Republics and in Slovenia, an annual meeting of politicians takes place under the Najevnik Linden Tree which is about 700 years old and the thickest tree in Slovenia.
At odds with the soft nature of the wood, it does get a mention in the Norse tale of Beowulf as a tree from which shields are made but maybe that has to do with its association as being a holy tree and so, therefore, imbued with protective powers and possibly a slower growing Scandinavian tree yields a harder wood.
Our small-leaved lime grows by the house. It was just, you know, there when we first moved in and we paid it little attention until it flowered. Then it became a humming, buzzing tower of nectar and pollen. When you stood beneath it thrummed like it was about to take off. And the scent was beautiful. We treat it with more respect now. This photo is taken from underneath it – the only bearable place to stand in the scorching afternoon sun, looking out onto our new “events area” where we hope to have weddings and parties.