Evanston's parkways and yards are ornamented with many diverse Lindens. These are lovely largish trees with heart-shaped leaves and small pendant panicles of creamy white flowers whose strong fragrance fills the surrounding air in early summer. There are both natives and foreigners among our town's Tilia species, and they vary in shape and size of leaves, flowers, trunk, height, and crown. The North American native, Tilia americana or Basswood, has large green leaves and pyramidal crown, when young. The light-colored wood of Lindens have been valued for musical instruments, boxes, and veneer.
Lindens are tough and tolerant of our street conditions but they appreciate moist, deep, rich soil. In hot dry conditions, their leaves can scorch and be damaged by aphids, though this does not harm the tree overall, according to garden guides.
I have several Lindens in my yard on Judson. The yard is ample, and I've tried to build upon prior landscaping by adding special groups of plants when space opens up somewhere. Prior owners put a low fieldstone retaining wall along higher ground at the back of the yard on the west of the property. Volunteer elms and weedy hybrid viburnums have planted themselves behind the stone wall, forming a small wood that filters the hot summer sun's afternoon rays. The volunteers are joined by an apple tree my neighbors gave me. When a windstorm one summer knocked down trees all along the block's alley in a domino effect, I was left with several spaces to fill in the wood. I like scented plants, so an arborist suggested putting in three different Lindens: large leaf, little leaf, and multistemed. The trees grew rapidly and are tall enough to screen the ugly electrical assembly fixed atop a pole along the alley.
Europeans and Latin Americans use Linden flowers and bracts for a jasmine-like tea, good for coughs, insomnia, and tense muscles. I collected the flower bunches and their tongue-like green bracts to make tea and saw that some tiny, plump, cream-colored spiders were living among the blossoms. (I collected the spiders on a leaf and returned them to the tree.) Unwilling to wait for the flowers to dry on screens, I made tea with a handful of fresh flowers and drank it. The fresh flower tea was so powerful that I immediately become drowsy and so relaxed I could hardly move from my chair! Tea from the dried flowers and or bracts, whether from my trees or the store, did not have such a strong effect. To avoid any surprises, it's probably better to use the store-bought teabags.