Carolina basswood
Tilia americana var. caroliniana

Secondary Names:
Carolina linden


Leaf Type: Deciduous
Texas Native:
Firewise:
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Tree Description:

A large tree to 70 feet tall and a trunk 2 to 3 feet in diameter, with many small, curving branches along the trunk that form a dense oval or rounded crown.

Range/Site Description:

Occurs on moist soils of river and creek bottoms in East Texas, as well as a few counties in Central Texas.

Leaf:

Simple, alternate, 3" to 6" long and 2" to 3.5" wide, generally heart-shaped, leaf base uneven or lopsided, and leaf margin sharp-toothed; veins begin to branch towards the leaf margin; leaves thin, smooth and shiny green on top, lighter beneath, sometimes with light pubescence.

Flower:

A favorite of honey bees, the 0.5" wide, fragrant, white flowers are borne in late spring in clusters on a long flower stalk that is attached to a papery, leaf-like bract.

Fruit:

A dry, 1 to 2-seeded nutlet, 0.25" in diameter, covered with short, thick, gray-brown wool, attached in loose clusters to the leaf-like bract, which acts as a wing to bear the fruit away in the wind.

Bark:

Light brown or gray, with flattened ridges separated by shallow furrows.

Wood:

Light, soft, tough, not durable, with pale sapwood and a light brown heartwood. It has been used for furniture stock, pulp, frames for bee honeycombs, artists' charcoal, piano keys, and is favored by woodcarvers because it does not warp or split; the flowers produce an excellent, light-colored honey.

Similar Species:

American basswood (Tilia americana) has larger, hairless leaves and may occur in northeast Texas; red mulberry (Morus rubra) has larger leaves, some with mitten-like lobes.

Interesting Facts:

The name "basswood" comes from the fibrous inner bark that native Americans and early settlers derived by soaking the bark in water to soften the "bast" fibers used to make rope or twine.

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