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.

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: 
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
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
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: 
  • Persistent fruit/seeds
  • Fragrant flowers
  • Showy flowers
  • Spring blossoms
Time of Year: 
  • Early summer
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Game mammals
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Size and Form

This is a large, native tree growing 60 to 80 feet tall and 30 to 60 feet wide.  Shape is pyramidal in youth, changing to oval or rounded with age.

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

Attracts birds & butterflies

Attracts songbirds and bluejays; the birds use the tree for its seeds and shelter.

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 rangng 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, 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 conidered a separate species, is now considerd 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 coverd with dense hairs, giving a white appearance.