The basswood is an adaptable native tree with few pests, aromatic flowers and pleasant foliage – some really great selling features! A member of the Linden family (Tiliaceae), this common, fast-growing deciduous tree is among the largest trees of eastern and central North America. Found throughout Southwestern Ontario, it can reach a height of 35 m (114 ft). It can grow as a lone tree or in groves, as it can support several trunks off of its base.
The leaves of the basswood, the largest of all broadleaf trees, are heart-shaped with toothed edges. They are 12-20 cm (5 – 8 inches) in length. The upper sides are rich green with a paler underside.
Basswood has grey-brown bark while young and long, narrow vertical ridges or plates when they get older. In summer, fragrant yellow flowers attract many insect pollinators, especially bees. Basswood seeds are encased in a hard, hairy, greyish-brown nutlike fruit, which is visible hanging from the centre of a leaf-like bract; when released, the bract acts like a helicopter wing to scatter the seeds. Basswood’s twigs grow in a zigzag pattern.
Best Growing Conditions
The basswood is very versatile and can grow in full shade to full sun. It prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil, but it can do well in most soils with a wide range of pH.
Basswoods make excellent shade trees on residential streets, in gardens and in city parks. It is easy to transplant. Mulching the nutrient-rich leaves in the fall with lawn clippings produces excellent fertilizer for one’s lawn. Songbirds, blue jays, and small mammals eat its seeds and use the tree for shelter. Sapsucker woodpeckers love its trunk. It is an important timber tree, valued for its light, easily worked wood. In addition to building, the wood is also great for carving as it doesn’t easily splinter. Its wood fibres also make excellent cordage. The tree’s flowers produce an abundance of nectar from which choice honey is made.
Muma, Walter. Ontario Trees & Shrubs. “Basswood”