TREES & plants

American basswood

American basswood is native to the Chicago area and is often used as a specimen or dense shade tree. Its heart-shaped leaves and fragrant flowers in June make it especially attractive for people, while songbirds and blue jays are attracted to its seeds and use the tree for shelter.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name: 
Tilia americana
All Common Names: 
American basswood, American linden, basswood
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Parkway/street
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
60-80 feet
Mature Width: 
30-60 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Highly susceptible to ice damage
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Persistent fruit/seeds
  • Showy flowers
Season of Interest: 
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Game mammals
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Best in moist, well-drained soils.  Adaptable to alkaline soils.

Disease, pests, and problems

Aphids, Japanese beetles, linden borer are possible insect problems.
Anthracnose and Verticillium wilt are possible fungal problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Native to the Chicago region

Bark color and texture 

Gray, ridged and furrowed.

American linden (Tilia americana)American linden (Tilia americana)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate, heart-shaped leaves ranging from 4 to 8 inches long.  Margins are coarsely toothed.  Summer color is dark green above and lighter green on the lower surface.  Fall color pale yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Creamy yellow flowers in hanging clusters (5 to 10 flowers per cluster) in early summer.  Each cluster is accompanied by a long, strap-shaped bract.  Very fragrant.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits are small, round nutlets, accompanied by a long strap-like bract.

Cultivars and their differences 

American Sentry® (Tilia americana 'MckSentry'):  This cultivar has a very symmetrical (pyramidal) canopy.  Grows 45 feet high and 30 feet wide.  Reported to have some resistance to Japanese beetle.

Redmond (Tilia americana 'Redmond'):  'Redmond' is a dense, pyramidal cultivar.  (Formerly classified as Tilia x euchlora 'Redmond').

var. heterophylla (Tilia americana var. heterophylla): This tree, once considered a separate species, is now considered a variety of the American linden.  It is known as white basswood or beetree linden.  It is very similar to American linden, except that the lower sides of the leaves are covered with dense hairs, giving a white appearance.