Tilia × europaea L. emend. Sm.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Tilia × europaea' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/tilia/tilia-x-europaea/). Accessed 2019-12-15.


Common Names

  • Common Lime


  • T. vulgaris Hayne
  • T. officinarum Crantz, in part
  • T. intermedia DC.


Organism arising via vegetative or asexual reproduction.
Diameter (of trunk) at breast height. Breast height is defined as 4.5 feet (1.37 m) above the ground.
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
Egg-shaped solid.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Tilia × europaea' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/tilia/tilia-x-europaea/). Accessed 2019-12-15.

Tree to 45 m × 3 m dbh. Trunk often with epicormic sprouts. Bark grey-brown, with irregular knobbly ridges after about 30 years. Twigs red in sun in winter, becoming glabrous. Buds with 2 or 3 visible scales, more or less glabrous. Leaves 7–10 × 6.5–9 cm, suborbicular, shallowly and asymmetrically cordate, slightly rugose; matt green above and paler green and sometimes slightly glossy beneath, rarely glaucous; with a few simple hairs or soon hairless except for large tufts of pale brown hairs under the main vein axils; marginal teeth usually without apiculate tips. Floral bracts very variable, on stalks 0.8–1.8 cm. Inflorescence drooping, normally with 7 flowers but with 9 on vigorous shoots, in an almost umbel-like cyme. Staminodes absent. Fruits 8 mm, spherical when sterile, with dense brown hairs (Pigott 2012).

Distribution  United Kingdom In a few sites where both species grow wild together (and elsewhere in Europe).

Habitat Woodlands, where the parent species grow together

USDA Hardiness Zone 3-5

RHS Hardiness Rating H7

The Common Lime is a natural hybrid, with a variety of genetically intermediate trees found in the wild when its parents grow together; a few of the ancient ‘village’ limes of central Europe are Common Lime, such as the one in the garden of Zámet, Velké Opatovice, Czech Republic, with the collapsed remains of a trunk about 3.5 m dbh in 2014 (monumentaltrees.com 2018). Hybrids which were cheap and easy to clone because they produced a mass of sprouts from the trunk were sold mostly by Dutch nurseries in the 17th century to form the formal avenues which were then popular garden features across Europe. Huge trees survive from this period in parks in the UK and Ireland, such as the tree at Florencecourt in Co Fermanagh (3.49 m dbh in 2010) and the fragmentary avenue at Bifrons Park in Kent with trees to 3.09 m dbh in 2013 (Tree Register 2018). These very sprouty clones (Pallida Group) have the elegant lightly-branched domed habit typical of most Tilia in youth, but often develop to be highly distinctive in maturity, with a tower shape of short branches spreading irregularly from three or four almost vertical major limbs, making them among the most distinctive features in the landscape. Occasional trees within these early avenues may resemble Broad-leaved Lime (T. platyphyllos) in general appearance, having clean boles with a darker more regularly ridge bark and maintaining a domed habit to great heights; they have been named the Hatfield (Hatfield Tall) Group by Pigott, after examples in old avenues at Hatfield Park in Hertfordshire (Pigott 2012).

However, the tallest specimens in Britain, which are probably the tallest Tilia anywhere in the world and have significantly outgrown any Common Limes recorded on the Continent, are sprouty, slender trees presumably belonging within the Pallida Group. These include one of 46 m at Reelig Glen Wood (Highland), in a sheltered ravine surrounded by 60 m Douglas Firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) at a latitude far north of the native range of either parent, and a line of trees to 43 m tall at Duncombe Park in Yorkshire (Tree Register 2018). In continental Europe trees of the Pallida Group are known as ‘Koningslinde’ (Netherlands) and ‘Kaiserlinde’ (Germany). Another variant perhaps not grown in Britain, ‘Zwarte Linde’ (‘De Netherlandsia’), has dark winter twigs and a broad, ovoid crown into maturity, and has been much planted in the Netherlands.

With their hybrid vigour, tolerance of urban pollution and willingness to grow on all soils except the least fertile sands, Common Limes were among the first choice of ornamental trees until the last few decades, when their tendency to support particularly high populations of aphids, whose ‘honey-dew’ can corrode paintwork on cars [STILL?] parked underneath street limes, has been viewed as more of a problem.

Other named clones which are perhaps not distinctive in their ornamental characteristics include:

‘Kristina’ (‘Eleonora’), a sale name for a clone of the Pallida Group (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013);

‘Erkelenz’ (Emperor Group), a tree of the Pallida Group selected in 1954 for disease-resistance (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013);

‘Frigg’, selected in Denmark for its neat habit in the 1990s (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013);

‘Ovedskloster’, selected by the Alnarp Research Station in Sweden in 2005 from an avenue of the Pallida Group planted from a Dutch source around 1770 at nearby Övedskloster (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013);

‘Siivone’, a name for trees of the Pallida Group planted in Finland in the 1950s (Jablonski & Plietzsch 2013).


Of broadly conical habit. Branchlets reddish brown. Leaves yellowish green beneath (T. vulgaris pallida Hort., not T. europaea var. pallida Reichenb., which was a wild form of T. × europaea near to T. cordata). This lime is known in Holland as ‘Koningslinde’ (Royal Lime) and in Germany as ‘Kaiserlinde’. Similar to this, and perhaps a sport of it, is ’ Wratislaviensis’, in which the young leaves are yellow, becoming yellowish green. It was raised at Breslau towards the end of the last century.

'Zwarte Linde'

This, the Dutch ‘Black Lime’ has very dark twigs and a broadly ovoid crown rounded at the summit, with almost horizontal lower branches.For further information on T. × europaea and the two parental species, see Elwes and Henry, Trees of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. VII (1913), pp. 1656-73; and Miles Hadfield, ‘Notes on Lime Trees in Britain’, Qtly. Journ. For., Vol. 55 (1961), pp. 303-12 and Vol. 56 (1962), pp. 41-8.


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