American Basswood

Order: Malvales
Family: Tiliaceae
Genus: Tilia
Species: americana


Identifying Characteristics
  • This deciduous tree is classified as medium to large, growing to be 80 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter with a broad crown.
  • The leaves are heart-shaped, alternate, simple, and toothed on 1.5 to 2.5 inch stems. The base is not symmetrical and the top green and smooth, while the bottom is pale green and somewhat hairy.
  • The bark is gray and smooth on young trees, but becomes dark gray and deeply fissured as they mature.
  • Buds are about 0.25 inch long and bright red in winter with two visible scales and a rounded pointy tip.
  • The fruit forms in clusters of nearly round, nut-like pods on long stems with a leafy wing attached.
Special Adaptations
  • The wing on seeds help them to catch the wind to be dispersed.
  • The flowers are bisexual, which means that one tree is able to fertilize itself; one basswood is able to survive without any others nearby.
  • Bees are particularly attractive to bees. This is beneficial in two ways:
    • It increases the likelihood that the flowers will be pollinated and the fruit will form.
    • Basswood honey is a delicacy for humans, so we will be more inclined to plant and protect basswoods.
  • Root sprouts will form off the roots of mature trees, which allows for the propagation of new basswoods without the need of a seed.
  • The fact that this tree is deciduous means that it is able to endure winter by dropping their leaves and entering a dormant period.

Jackson, M. T. (2003). 101 Trees of Indiana: A Field Guide. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.