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Small-leaved Lime

Tilia cordata

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Malvaceae (Mallow)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 metres tall
Cliffs, gardens, parks, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
4-10 hanging yellowish-green flowers per cluster, each having a leafy yellowish-green bract. 5 petals. Half-erect flower clusters appearing above their bracts.
Winged nutlets. Not very ribbed, unlike Large-leaved Lime.
Green and heart-shaped. The commonest of our 2 native Lime species. The other native species being the very similar-looking Common Lime. The Small-leaved Lime has smaller and rounder leaves than the Common Lime.
Flowers have a strong scent.
Other Names:
European Linden, Garden Lime, Little-leaf Linden, Small-leaved Linden.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Tilia cordata, also known as the "little-leaf linden" or "garden lime," is a species of deciduous tree that is native to Europe and western Asia. It is known for its small, heart-shaped leaves that can be up to 3 inches in width. The tree can grow up to 30 meters tall and has a broad, spreading crown. In summer, it produces drooping clusters of yellowish-green flowers that are very fragrant, followed by small nut-like fruits (drupe) that hang on the tree during winter. Tilia cordata prefers moist, well-drained soils and full sun. It is often grown as an ornamental tree in gardens and parks and also used in ornamental horticulture, as well as for honey production.


Small-leaved lime, also known as Tilia cordata, is a deciduous tree that is native to Europe and western Asia. It is a member of the Tilia genus, which consists of about 30 different species of trees commonly known as limes or basswoods. The small-leaved lime is a popular ornamental tree and is often planted in parks and gardens for its attractive foliage, fragrant flowers, and shade.

Description and Characteristics

The small-leaved lime is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 20-30 meters tall. It has a slender, upright trunk with a round crown and smooth, gray bark. The leaves are heart-shaped and small, measuring only 3-8 cm in length. They are dark green on the upper surface and pale green on the lower surface, with serrated edges. The leaves turn yellow in autumn before falling off the tree.

Small-leaved lime produces fragrant yellowish-white flowers in early summer, which are rich in nectar and attract bees and other pollinators. The flowers are arranged in clusters and hang from a long stem that protrudes from a leafy bract. The fruit of the small-leaved lime is a small, round nutlet that is enclosed in a woody, ribbed bract.


The small-leaved lime has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history. The wood is soft and light, making it ideal for carving and woodworking. It has been used to make furniture, musical instruments, and even wooden shoes. The inner bark of the tree has also been used to make cordage and rope.

The small-leaved lime is also known for its medicinal properties. The flowers and leaves contain a range of compounds that have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, colds, coughs, and anxiety. The tea made from the flowers is a popular remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders.


Although small-leaved lime is not considered an endangered species, its natural habitat is under threat due to deforestation and urbanization. In some areas, the tree has also been affected by the spread of the invasive species, such as the woolly adelgid. To protect the small-leaved lime and its ecosystem, it is important to promote sustainable forestry practices and to conserve natural habitats where the tree occurs.


Small-leaved lime is an important tree for biodiversity as it provides a habitat for many species of insects, birds, and mammals. The flowers are an important source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, and the leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of several species of moth. The tree also provides nesting sites and shelter for birds and small mammals.


Small-leaved lime is native to Europe and western Asia, where it occurs in a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, hedgerows, and parks. It is widely cultivated in other parts of the world, including North America and Australia, where it has become naturalized in some areas.


Small-leaved lime is a popular ornamental tree and is often planted in parks and gardens for its attractive foliage, fragrant flowers, and shade. It is a hardy tree that is tolerant of a range of soil types and can grow in both full sun and partial shade. The tree is propagated by seed or cuttings and can be pruned to maintain a compact shape.

Interesting Facts

  • The small-leaved lime is also known as the littleleaf linden or the basswood.
  • The tree has a long history of human use and has been cultivated for over 1,000 years.
  • In folklore, the small-leaved lime is associated with fertility, love, and protection. It was believed to have magical properties and was often used in rituals and ceremonies.
  • The wood of the small-leaved lime is also used to make charcoal, which is used in the production of gunpowder and other explosives.
  • The tree has been the subject of many poems and works of literature, including a famous poem by William Wordsworth titled "The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison".

Potential Health Benefits

The small-leaved lime tree has a long history of use in traditional medicine for its potential health benefits. The flowers and leaves of the tree are rich in phytochemicals, such as flavonoids and tannins, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

Some potential health benefits associated with the consumption of small-leaved lime tea or extract include:

  • Improving digestion and relieving gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Boosting the immune system and helping to fight infections
  • Reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation
  • Alleviating respiratory problems, such as coughs and colds
  • Reducing inflammation and pain associated with conditions like arthritis

However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of small-leaved lime and to determine the appropriate dosages and potential side effects.

In Summary

Small-leaved lime is a versatile and attractive tree with a long history of human use. It is an important tree for biodiversity, providing habitats for many species of insects, birds, and mammals. The tree has potential health benefits and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. By protecting and conserving this species, we can ensure that it will continue to enrich our world for generations to come.

Some Facts about Small-leaved Lime

Here are some random facts about small-leaved lime:

  1. The small-leaved lime is a member of the Tilia genus, which comes from the Greek word "ptilon," meaning feather, referring to the feather-like shape of the bracts that surround the fruit.

  2. In some cultures, small-leaved lime trees are planted near homes for their fragrant flowers, which are believed to repel evil spirits.

  3. The wood of the small-leaved lime tree is often used to make carvings and sculptures, including religious icons and figurines.

  4. Small-leaved lime trees have been used to create a natural fence or hedge, which is commonly known as a "linden hedge" in some parts of Europe.

  5. The small-leaved lime is one of the few trees that can tolerate pollution in urban areas, making it a popular choice for city parks and gardens.

  6. In traditional medicine, small-leaved lime tea is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety and sleep disorders.

  7. Small-leaved lime trees can live for over 1,000 years, with some trees in Europe estimated to be over 1,500 years old.

  8. The small-leaved lime is the national tree of the Czech Republic and is often featured in their national folklore and art.

  9. The flowers of the small-leaved lime tree can be used to make a fragrant and sweet syrup, which is often used as a natural sweetener.

  10. The small-leaved lime tree is also known as the "bee tree" due to the large amounts of nectar produced by its fragrant flowers, which are a favorite of honeybees.


Small-leaved Lime filmed at Clapton-on-the-Hill in the Cotswolds on the 26th June 2023.


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