America's Linden Tree - The Basswood
On my walks and rides this week, I've noticed that the Linden trees in my neighborhood are flowering. These are mostly Little Leaf Lindens, or Tilia cordata, a European species that's been imported into the Western Hemisphere - once again, for heaven knows why. For we in the northeastern quarter of the United States have our very own member of the Tilia genus, T. americana (appropriately), also known as the Basswood.
In some circles, the Basswood is called the "Bee Tree", as it is a favorite of our native bee species, all of which are solitary insects. The latest to bloom of our native trees, the Basswood is an important source of nectar - and pollen. As those of us in Michigan know, June - the month when which Basswoods typically flower - can be a pretty rainy month. For this reason, Basswoods bear their flowers pendulously, hanging down, so the copious rains don't wash away the valuable nectar and pollen. The adult bees utilize the nectar directly; the pollen they use to pack a little lunch of "bee bread" in each larval chamber, ensuring that each infant bee will have a nutritious meal to start them on their way. Native bees are not the only organisms to find the Basswood useful. The caterpillars of over 20 Lepidoptera species - mostly moths - host on the trees' leaves. The trees are utilized in various ways by other avian and mammalian species, including First Nations tribes.
Riding or walking under a flowering Basswood is a memorable experience - the honey scent is intoxicating and the flowers exquisitely beautiful.
(Photo by Don Schulte.)