Tilia tomentosa

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Tilia tomentosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Tilia
Species: T. tomentosa
Binomial name
Tilia tomentosa

Tilia tomentosa (silver lime in the UK and silver linden in the US) is a species of flowering plant in the family Malvaceae, native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Hungary and the Balkans east to western Turkey, occurring at moderate altitudes.[1][2]


Tree in a public park in Belgium

T. tomentosa is a deciduous tree growing to 20–35 m (66–115 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 2 m (7 ft) in diameter. The leaves are alternately arranged, rounded to triangular-ovate, 4–13 cm long and broad with a 2.5–4 cm petiole, green and mostly hairless above, densely white tomentose with white hairs below, and with a coarsely toothed margin. The flowers are pale yellow, hermaphrodite, produced in cymes of three to ten in mid to late summer with a pale green subtending leafy bract; they have a strong scent and are pollinated by honeybees. The nectar however contains sugars which cannot be digested by other bees, to whom the tree is somewhat toxic. The fruit is a dry nut-like drupe 8–10 mm long, downy, and slightly ribbed.[1][3]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

It is widely grown as an ornamental tree throughout Europe. The cultivar 'Brabant' has a strong central stem and a symmetrical conic crown. The cultivar 'Petiolaris' (pendent or weeping silver lime) differs in longer leaf petioles 4–8 cm long and drooping leaves; it is of unknown origin and usually sterile, and may be a hybrid with another Tilia species.[1][3] It is very tolerant of urban pollution, soil compaction, heat, and drought, and would be a good street tree in urban areas, apart from the problems it causes to bees.[1][4] In cultivation in the United Kingdom, T. 'Petiolaris' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[5]

An infusion made from the flowers of T. tomentosa is antispasmodic, diaphoretic and sedative.[6] This may be attributable to the presence of pharmacologically active ligands of benzodiazepine receptor [7]

A widespread belief is that the nectar of this species contains mannose, which can be toxic to some bees. This is incorrect; the sight of numerous comatose bees found on the ground at flowering time is rather a result of the paucity of nectar sources in late summer in urban areas.[8]

This species, while fragrant in spring, drops buds and pollen during the spring and fall. It is not a good sidewalk tree for that reason, requiring frequent streetcleaning.


  1. ^ a b c d Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  2. ^ Flora Europaea: Tilia tomentosa
  3. ^ a b Mitchell, A. F. (1974). A Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-212035-6
  4. ^ Mitchell, A. F. (1996). Alan Mitchell's Trees of Britain. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-219972-6.
  5. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Tilia petiolaris". Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Plants For A Future: Tilia tomentosa, which cites Lauriault, J. (1989). Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario. ISBN 0-88902-564-9
  7. ^ Viola, H., Wolfman, C., Levi de Stein, M. et al. (1994). "Isolation of pharmacologically active benzodiazepine receptor ligands from Tilia tomentosa (Tiliaceae)". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 44 (1): 47–53. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(94)90098-1. PMID 7990504. 
  8. ^ Illies, Ingrid (2007). "The Foraging Behaviour of Honeybees and Bumblebees on Late Blooming Lime Trees". Entomologia generalis. Schweizerbart. Retrieved 6 June 2013.