Lindens of Maxwell Arboretum: About
On the American Linden
When the shade begins to be heavy and the midges fill the woods, and when the western sky is a curtain of black nimbus slashed by the jagged scimitar of of lightning, when the wood thrush seldom sings except after rain and instead the rain crow, our American cuckoo, stutters his weary, descending song--an odor teals upon the moist and heavy air, unbelievably sweet and penetrating.
It is an odor that comes from no bed of stocks, no honeysuckle. More piercing, yet less drugging, than orange blossoms, it is wafted, sometimes as much as a mile, from the flowers of the Linden. All odors have evocative associations to those who know them well--wild grape, wild Crab, wild rose, and honeysuckle. The odor of the Lindens in boom brings back to many of us the soaring wail of treetoads, the first fireflies in the dusk, the banging of June beetles on the window screens, the limpness of the flags on the Fourth of July, and all that is a boy's-eye view of those languorous first days of vacation from school.
As a wild tree, this Linden, or Basswood as lumbermen and farmers call it, grows sometimes as much as 130 feet tall, with a trunk 3 or 4 feet thick, forming a broadly round-topped crown with short, often pendulous branches. It flourishes in low woods, in company with White Elm, White Ash, and Cottonwood; formerly it often formed nearly pure groves in some spots. Today, though much reduced within its natural range, it is common in cultivation, as a street and lawn tree. There it has rivals in a number of Lindens of European origin, including many hybrids. Some of these are preferred for their pretty little leaves, and in their profusion of flowers. But none of them equals the American Linden in splendid stature--a tree completely benignant and well worthy of planting beside the door, to shade the roof with its lovely crown. The great heart-shaped leaves, though not so prettified as those of some exotic species, cast a deep cool shade. Rather unusually, it is the undersides of the leaves that are shiny, not the upper surface. When the cold wind that just precedes the advances of a summer thunderstorm rushes through the Lindens, the blades are flung over and shine unearthly bright against the black advancing skies.
Bees, when the Lindens bloom, forsake all others and cleave only unto these flowers. The honey that they make of Linden nectar is white in color, with a rather strong flavor, but regarded as of high quality. Though to the shortness of the blooming period, about three weeks, is added the drawback that abundant honeyflows can be depended on only two or three years out of every five, yet when an unusually heavy flow comes, it yields enormous quantities.
---Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America