Three Reasons to plant a Linden Tree in Chicago

Linden Tree and Linden Tree Leaves in Chicago.png

Last year I while walking down a street I’d never been down before I caught whiff of a scent so sweet that I paused and looked around for the source. I carefully examined the two gardens and plantings on the parkway looking for the source of the scent. I crouched down and circled a tree sniffing every bloom in the parkway to no avail. When I finally stood upright my head was underneath the canopy of a young tree covered in tiny yellow flowers, and there was the source of the scent. I made a mental note to look up the tree later and went about my day. 

That evening, while at the computer, I remembered the fragrance of the flowers and my mental note from earlier in the day. The problem was I didn’t know what kind of tree I had encountered and didn’t recall ever seeing it before.

My fingers, resting on the keyboard of my laptop, began to tap away on their own. “L-i-n-d-e-n T-r-e-e,” they pecked and hit enter key. In 0.34 seconds Google was showing me pictures of the tree I had spotted earlier. How did I know it was a Linden tree? I have no idea. perhaps, a lucky guess or maybe it was fate that I should know the identity of this tree and pass on word of it.

Since that day I’ve learned that the Linden, also known as Basswood, is a good street tree candidate, although it is sensitive to road salt. It is hardy and tolerant of alkaline soils. The pyramidal shape of the crown makes it a good candidate for a shade tree.

Linden tree flowers in Chicago.png

The yellowish-white flowers have to be the best reason to plant this tree. They’re said to be honeybee magnets and a delicious honey is produced from the nectar. The flowers can be steeped in mineral oil to make a perfume or harvested and dried to make a tea.

In the fall when the seed pods that resemble peas parachute-like bract to the ground. They too can be harvested, roasted and ground to brew what is described as a “chocolate-flavored” coffee substitute.

Linden tree seed pods in Chicago.png

A city tree that provides; shade, fragrance and edible flowers/fruit. How many more reasons do you need to plant this tree in Chicago?


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  • It's lovely. I'm familiar with the names Linden and Basswood, but wouldn't have recognized the tree. When does it bloom? I'll be on the lookout for them in the future!

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    It blooms in June-July.

  • Are you serious? I didn't know you were writing your dissertation on the American bassoods. That's really cool, I'm becoming a big fan of this tree.

  • Yes, they are wonderful street trees--which is why the main street in Berlin is called Unter den Linden, Under the Lime Trees. And actually they are "lime" trees. "Linden" is the adjective; the lumber taken from them is lindenwood, and things made from it are "linden". Like "oak" and "oaken".

  • In reply to KOJohnson:

    KOJohnson, I think in America Linden, Basswood and Tilia are more common. "Lime" seems to be more of a European thing.

    Isn't Lime an altered form of Middle English lind?

  • A word of caution. Linden trees are very shallow-rooted and susceptible to windstorms. Earlier this year a number of Linden trees in my town were blown over because of their dense foliage and shallow root system. Also, Linden trees are a real pain to mow around because of their surface roots. Beautiful tree, but there are drawbacks with Lindens as well.

  • In reply to mississippi:

    I didn't know they were susceptible to windstorms. We have 13 species of 'em on the recommended tree list. I added it to the bottom of another tree post.

    Thanks for signing up to comment.

  • Yes, the Basswood is good; always remember the key is diversity and never becoming too dependent on any one tree selection.

  • In reply to kent:


    Good point about tree diversity. I think that's a lesson that Chicago has learned. I shared this link above but I'll add it here for anyone else who reads this:

    At the bottom of that post there is a link to the pdf guide for tree planting in Chicago.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • I would agree with Mississippi above. The roots often end up on top of the ground and cause problems with lawnmowers. Also, the trees are continuously dropping something, whether it be small twigs by the dozens, the flyers mentioned in the article leaves,or flowers- it is always something. The leaves in the fall form a thick blanket and are tough to rake.
    A beautiful tree, but messy.

  • In reply to JohnGoSox:

    Hi John, thanks for sharing your feedback. Since one of my interests in this tree is those parachutes and seeds I hadn't considered they'd be a nuisance for those who don't plant is specifically for them.

    Good point about the leaves, although in my year of visiting the tree pictured above I haven't noticed the surface roots be that pronounced. Of course the tree is young and it may get worse as the tree gets older.

    Thanks for commenting.

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  • An infusion with the flowers or fruits, make good a good sedative.

  • In reply to Tero:

    Hi Nelson,

    Thanks for the tip and for commenting.

  • Perhaps in the city Japanese beetles aren't a problem, but elsewhere they devour Tilia. Think twice before planting.

    Consider a male Ginkgo if you're considering a beautiful street tree with little mess.

  • In reply to Zone4:

    Hi Zone4,

    We have Japanese beetles in the city. I guess this one is lucky that it hasn't been found by them.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • In reply to Zone4:

    You've probably noticed I like to leave irrelevant comments, so in that line: I lived on Lindenfels St. in Germany! :) Also, I love basswood.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:


  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    I have a Linden tree. It's at least 40 years old, I've never noticed a japanese beetle on it, and it's less messy than my maple tree. I also don't seem to have the problem with the surface roots either. It does smell gorgeous in the spring. No fall colors though.

  • In reply to LisaGoodwin:

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for commenting and adding your perspective in reply to the comments above.

  • In reply to LisaGoodwin:

    i'd love to plant one of these, but i wouldn't want all those bees in the same backyard as my 2- and 3-year-olds. i'm having an old apple tree removed and want to replace it with a small tree that won't attract a lot of bugs. doesn't need to provide shade, as i already have a red maple. what should i get?

  • In reply to freelocalradio:


    There's a list of trees suitable for Chicago at the end of this post

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    Catalpa are weak wooded trees. Sugar maple, honey locust, or elm cultivar.

  • In reply to Zone4:

    Not a good choice. Go with an Elm cultivar .

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