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American basswood

American basswood produces fragrant flowers in summer.

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 species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

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):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay 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

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fragrant flowers,
  • Persistent fruit/seeds,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • 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 

“These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

American Sentry® American basswood(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.

Boulevard American basswood(Tilia americana 'Boulevard'): Narrow pyramidal habit; 50 feet high by 25 feet wide.

Legend American basswood(Tilia americana 'DTR 123'):  A pyramidal cultiar with good branching structure.  Thick, green leaves look good in late summer.  Winter stems and buds are bright red.

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

var. heterophylla white basswood (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.

Continental Appeal white basswood (Tilia americana var. heterophylla 'Continental Appeal'):  Narrow, oval form; 50 feet high by 30 feet wide).  Leaves dark green upper surface and white lower surface.

Location of Tilia americana (American basswood) at the Arboretum