American Basswood Trees: A Desirable Wood and Landscape Tree

Tilia americana: Honey Tree, Shade Tree, Valuable Wood Product

Basswood is a prized wood that is relatively soft, works exceptionally well when tooling and is valued for hand carving. The inner bark, or bast, can be used as a source of fiber for making rope or for weaving such items as baskets and mats.

The soft, light wood has many uses as wood products. The tree is also well known as a honey or bee-tree, and the seeds and twigs are eaten by wildlife. It is commonly planted as a shade tree in urban areas of the eastern states where it is called American linden.

An Introduction to American Basswood

Basswood leaf
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Basswood, also known as American Linden, is a large native North American tree that can grow more than 80 feet tall. In addition to being a majestic tree in the landscape, basswood is a soft, light wood and prized for hand carvings and making baskets. 

The tree makes an excellent landscape plant with some tolerance to urban conditions depending on the cultivar. It is a perfect shade tree and can be used as a residential street tree.

There are several great cultivars of American linden including ‘Redmond,’ ‘Fastigiata,’ and ‘Legend.’ The cultivar Tilia americana ‘Redmond’ grows 75 feet tall, has a beautiful pyramidal shape and is drought-tolerant.

The Silviculture of American Basswood

American Basswood Flowers
Virens/Flikr/CC BY 2.0)

American basswood is a large and rapid-growing tree of eastern and central North America. The tree frequently has two or more trunks and vigorously sprouts from stumps as well as seed. American basswood is an important timber tree, especially in the Great Lakes States. It is the northernmost basswood species.

Basswood flowers produce an abundance of nectar from which choice honey is made. In fact, in some parts of its range basswood is known as the bee-tree. Throughout the eastern United States, basswood is frequently planted along city streets.

The Images of American Basswood

Basswood Sapling
Wendy Klooster/Ohio State University OARDC/ provides several images of parts of basswood. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Malvales > Tiliaceae > Tilia americana L. American Basswood is also commonly called basswood, bee-tree, American linden.

The Range of American Basswood

Distribution map of Tilia americana basswood tree
Range map of Tilia americana. Elbert L. Little, Jr./U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons

American basswood ranges from southwestern New Brunswick and New England west in Quebec and Ontario to the southeast corner of Manitoba; south through eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas to northeastern Oklahoma; east to northern Arkansas, Tennessee, western North Carolina; and northeast to New Jersey.

American Basswood at Virginia Tech Dendrology

Linden tree bud, embryonic shoot with fresh green leaf. macro view tree branch, gray background. spring time concept, soft focus
Besjunior / Getty Images

Leaf: Alternate, simple, ovate to cordate, 5 to 6 inches long, with serrate margins, pinnately veined, base is unequally cordate, green above and paler below.

Twig: Moderately stout, zigzag, green (summer) or red (winter); terminal bud is false, each very plump with one side bulging out disproportionately. Buds are edible but very mucilaginous.