What’s one of the most prominent trees of deciduous forests that Minnesotans are likely to see?
It’s the basswood, aka the American linden. In Minnesota, we can see them from the Iowa border north to the Canadian border.
Basswood leaves are easy to recognize. They are large and heart-shaped, 4 to 6 inches, sometimes longer. They are dark green above and light green below, and edged with course teeth. The basswood forms a handsome, symmetrical tree that grows from 50 to 100 feet.
In late June, when it comes into bloom, the trees are loaded with clusters of fragrant, creamy-white flowers that perfume forest areas and our neighborhoods, and attract honey bees and other pollinators. When the basswood blooms, it can be an excellent source of honey for about two weeks.
Basswoods not only shade us but also provide visual beauty and sweet-smelling flowers. They also play an important role in the forest ecosystem. Their wood is commonly used for homes, furniture, wood-carving and paper pulp.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.