Common Name: Common Lime
Scientific name: Tilia x Europaea
Introduction: The Common Lime is a deciduous, naturally formed hybrid tree that is native to the UK and some of Europe. It has characteristics of both small-leaved and large-leaved lime, which means it can quite often get confused with other Limes and hybrids.
[Common Lime in a field]
Leaves: Dark-green, heart-shaped leaves which have white hairs across their vein axils. They have a lopsided-lobed base, and in Autumn, the crooked, lobed leaves fade to a muted yellow before dropping.
[Image: The leaves of a Common Lime]
Buds: Red and form on long-leaf stalks.
Bark: Pale grey-brown. It is irregularly ridged with burrs that form at the base of the tree.
Form: Often planted down ‘avenues’ and they can reach heights between 15-50m.
Common Limes are hermaphrodite (within their flowers there both male and female reproductive parts). Their white-yellow flowers hang in clusters. These flowers have a strong smell and have a reputation for being ‘droopy’. Once their flowers are pollinated, oval-shaped, ribbed fruits with a pointed tip develop.
The common lime’s trunk grows up to 5m in diameter. Its heights vary depending on the life of the tree but typically range from 15-50m tall.
Lime trees have been a symbolism of fertility and in some countries, are a symbolism of liberty. Additionally, lime bark was traditionally used to make rope. Common Limes are attractive to aphids who secrete the sap of the tree which is why if you park your car underneath them it will get covered in sticky aphid excrement – despite this, Common Limes are very common street trees!
The leaves of a common lime tree are attractive to aphids which provide ladybirds, hoverflies and many bird species with a food source. Lime leaves are also a food source for different moth species’ caterpillars. Their flowers also provide a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees and other insects. Over time, some Lime trees may host wood-boring beetles who are attracted to deadwood and birds may choose to nest here.
Properties of Common Lime wood and its Uses
Its wood is finely textured and thus so is easy to use. The white-yellow wood can be used for carving and furniture making and is most commonly used to make sounding boards and piano keys.
Styling of Common Lime/Where to Find It
Common Lime is known for being an ‘ornamental’ tree that finds itself situated in large parks.
Associated Pests and Diseases
The Common Lime can fall subject to fungal disease, which can cause root rot and bleeding cankers. Also, like many other trees, it can suffer from infestations of aphids, sap-sucking insects and gall mites.
Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Common Limes require annual pruning to help maintain their health and reduce the chance of disease. Ideally, as the Common Lime is particularly sensitive to frost, Common Limes should be pruned early to mid-spring. When pruning, you should aim to reduce centre branches, crisscrossed branches and suckers to help open up the tree, increase airflow and sunlight that penetrates the tree and makes limbs stronger. Regarding removing dead or diseased branches, this should ideally be carried out in the spring when you are doing your annual pruning. If, however, they are spotted throughout the year and are going to cause serious harm/seriously affect the health of your tree, then you can emergency prune them. If you are ever in doubt about what your tree needs, or if you think any major tree work needs to be carried out, then you should always contact your local qualified tree surgeon. You can find your local tree surgeon here.
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