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The Lime

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Lime tree

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Family Tiliaceae
Tilia platyphyllos

There are three kinds of Lime in general cultivation in this country. They are the Large-leaved (Tilia platyphyllos), the Small-leaved (T. cordata), and the Common Lime (T. vulgaris). The last named is generally admitted to be a hybrid between the two preceding species, and is the one most commonly planted. The Small-leaved Lime, which does not occur in woods north of Cumberland, is now generally regarded as a true native, but there is no doubt as to the Large-leaved Lime, which is only growing really wild in the woods of Herefordshire, Radnorshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire.
The Large-leaved Lime growing in parkland or meadow with its roots deep in good light loam attains a height of eighty or ninety feet, and the girth of such a specimen, four feet from the ground, would be about fifteen feet. Larger specimens have been recorded, up to twenty-seven feet in girth.
All our Limes have similar straight, tall stems, clad in smooth bark, and with a similar habit of growth. They demand genial climatic conditions for their development, and consequently do not put forth their leaves until May. The period of their leafy state is comparatively short, for they lose their leaves early in the autumn.
The leaf is heart-shaped, with one of the basal lobes lager than the other, and the edges are cut into saw-like teeth.
The yellowish-white flower has distinct sepals and petals, an abundance of nectar, and a strong, sweet fragrance as of Honeysuckle. They are in clusters of six or seven, the stalks of all arising from one very long and stouter stalk, which is attached for half its length to a strap-shaped bract. They are not produced until the boughs are well clothed with leaves. Cross-fertilization is ensured by the innumerable bees that visit the flowers for the abundant nectar they contain, and which the bees convert into a first-rate honey.
The flowers are succeeded by globular little fruits, each about a quarter of an inch across, yellow and covered with pale down. In a good season these will be found to contain one or two seeds, but often, in this country, the summers are too short to ripen them. The Lime does not begin to bear until its thirty-fifth year, and its seed-crop depends entirely on the weather.
The question of its value as timber is probably rarely taken into account when it is planted in this country, where its ornamental appearance as an avenue or shade-tree is its great recommendation; yet it serves for many smaller uses, where lightness and fine grain are required. It is largely used by the makers of musical instruments, and it is from the inner bark of the Lime that bast mats are made. It must also be mentioned that the wonderful carvings of Grinling Gibbons were executed in this wood. It is one of the long-lived trees, its full life-period being certainly five centuries.
Those in St. James’s Park are popularly supposed to have been planted, at the suggestion of John Evelyn, somewhere about the year 1660. there is also a fine Lime avenue in Bushey Park probably planted by Dutch William. Lime avenues often include more than one species. The longest avenue of Limes is probably that on the Clumber estate in Nottinghamshire. It consists of 1,315 trees, planted in a double row on each side of the drive and is 1 mile and 1,590yards long.


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