Tilia dasystyla Loud.

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Article from New Trees, Ross Bayton & John Grimshaw

Recommended citation
'Tilia dasystyla' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/tilia/tilia-dasystyla/). Accessed 2019-12-16.

Tree, rarely to 30 m. Bark grey, developing ridges which crack into square scales. Twigs slender (1.5–3 mm thick), green, red in sun, glabrous or with a few stellate hairs. Buds 7–9 mm, with three visible scales, more or less glabrous. Leaves 5–8 × 5–8 cm, orbicular; upper surface dark green, glossy, lower surface pale green, dull, with clusters of light brown hair in the vein axils; marginal teeth triangular, with apiculate tips 0.7–1.7 mm long. Floral bracts 5–8 × 0.8–1.6 cm, widest near the middle, yellowish green, waxy, glabrous and stiffly bent back, with stalks of 8–23 mm. Inflorescence drooping, with 3–7 flowers; style sometimes densely hairy. Staminodes absent. Fruit 7–11 × 5–8 mm, spherical to obovoid, with a dense white silky tomentum (Pigott 2012).  

Distribution  Russia Crimea, near SE shoreline

Habitat Cliffs, scree slopes and wooded hills

USDA Hardiness Zone 6-7

RHS Hardiness Rating H6

Although Steven’s name for the species takes precedence and was based on a tree sourced from the Crimea, this population is really a very localised but distinctive variant of a lime whose natural range extends much more widely to the south and east as subsp. caucasica (which is also present as a planted tree in the Crimea (Pigott 2012). The larger and older examples of Tilia dasystyla in western Europe are known or assumed all to belong to subsp. caucasica; one 10 m specimen at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium at Meise, grown from seed from Yalta Botanic Garden, appears to be the true subsp. dasystyla. Verified material has also recently been reintroduced from several localities in the Crimea by Donald and Sheila Pigott; a tree in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, from seed collected in 1992, was 8 m × 15 cm dbh by 2014 (Tree Register 2018).

subsp. caucasica (V. Engl.) Pigott

T. begoniifolia Steven

Subsp. caucasica has larger leaves (6.5–13 x 5–10.5 cm) than in subsp. dasystyla, and they are less glossy, with larger marginal teeth. The floral bracts are also larger (7.5–14 × 1.1–2.6 cm), pale but not yellowish green, not waxy, and largely flat, though often with undulate margins. The style is seldom densely hairy, but this feature is not reliable (Pigott 2012).


  • Azerbaijan
  • Georgia
  • Iran
  • Russia – E of the Crimea
  • Turkey

RHS Hardiness Rating: H5

With its much wider natural distribution, subsp. caucasica is assumed by Donald Pigott (2012) to be the form sold around Europe by Späth’s nursery in the 19th century and (as a very elegant tree with unusually large leaves with long mucronate tips) by Hillier and Sons, and perhaps other nurseries, through the mid 20th century. A tree in the Liege Botanic Garden, Belgium, had a dbh of 1.04 m in 2016 (monumentaltrees.com 2018); a 1912 planting at Birr Castle in Co. Offaly was 23.5 m × 1.21 m dbh in 2010 (Tree Register 2018); this tree received an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Younger trees of the large-leaved form had reached 25 m in England at the Westonbirt National Arboretum and at Althorp Park, Northamptonshire, in 2014, and at Stourhead, Wiltshire, in 2016, and (a tree planted in 1966) 14 m as far north as the St Andrews Botanic Garden in Fife in 2013 (Tree Register 2018). This variant has to count as one of the most handsome of limes; it is most likely to be confused with glabrous forms of Tilia americana. (The absence of staminodes in the flowers of T. dasystyla is the absolute botanical distinction, but this species also has significantly larger tufts of axillary hair under its leaves, which are more rounded in typical outline.) Trees to at least 40 m tall occur in the Lagodekhi Protected areas, Georgia (monumentaltrees.com 2018).

Subsp. caucasica was reintroduced from Iran in 1972 by Roy Lancaster and Ann Ala (A&L 16). In trees from this provenance the large leaves are not glossy and droop from the twigs – the former name for this eastern population, T. begoniifolia, was very apt. Trees from A&L 16 have grown very vigorously in collections in the UK, reaching 16 m at the late Maurice Mason’s garden at Beachamwell by 2009 (Tree Register 2018). ‘Winter Red’, last listed in the RHS Plant Finder in 1998, may have been a sale name for trees from this collection, which have deep red shoots in winter.

subsp. dasystyla

Tree 20–25 m. Bark grey, becoming rough and ridged. Branchlets green, glabrous or with a few stellate hairs. Leaves 4.8–8.2 × 4.7–8 cm, circular, upper surface dark green, glossy, lower surface pale green, dull, clusters of light brown hair in vein axils, approx. eight secondary veins on each side of the midvein, base cordate, margins serrate (teeth small, acute), apex acute; petiole glabrous, 2.5–4 cm long. Inflorescences with two to four flowers; bracts 5–7 × 1–1.5 cm, yellowish green, elliptic, glabrous, waxy, stalked, characteristically stiff and recurved. Flowers 1.2–1.5 cm diameter. Fruit spherical, obovate or spindle-shaped, to 1 cm diameter, densely tomentose. Pigott 1997, Pigott & Francis 1999. Distribution UKRAINE: Crimea. Habitat Cliffs and scree slopes to wooded hills, between 120 and 860 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6–7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Belgische Dendrologie Belge 2005 2006; NT860. Cross-references B609, K395 (in part).

Tilia dasystyla subsp. dasystyla occurs only in the Crimea (and possibly Turkey), where it can grow to 20–25 m (Pigott & Francis 1999). It has small, circular, rather thick leaves that are a shining dark green and are held poised above the stems. The flower bracts are a shining, rather waxy, yellow-green. Despite a long history in the literature, and frequent nomenclatural presence, it is actually quite rare in horticulture. Many earlier examples are apparently a single clone, with unusually large leaves that have long-tipped marginal teeth. Material obtained from botanic gardens should be checked for signs of hybridity, but the 10 m specimen at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium at Meise, grown from seed from Yalta Botanic Garden, appears to be correct. Verified material has recently been reintroduced from several localities in the Crimea by Donald and Sheila Pigott, and is in cultivation in public and private gardens in the United Kingdom – for example at Kew, where it is growing steadily and already flowering.


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