Common Lime - Tilia x Europaea

Main features

  • Deciduous tree growing to 46m 

  • Usually found in parks, country estates, lining streets, and large gardens

  • Often has lots of suckers at its base

  • Leaves shaped like lopsided love hearts, with a pointed tip

  • Specialised thin pale leaves (bracts) with flowers erupting from stalk halfway down this leaf

  • Flowers have small leaves and pronounced anthers, and are in groups of four to 10 on each bract

  • Small, hard, spherical, green fruits appear after flowering

  • Leaves often covered in sticky substance

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Common Lime - Tilia x Europaea

Edible tree - novice

Other common names: Lime, Tilia, Linden

 

Scientific name meaning: Tilia is derived from Latin and means "broad", while Europaea means "of or from Europe"

Season all year

Habitat - where will I find it? Although Common Lime is a hybrid of two British native limes, it is unusual to find it growing wild. Instead, it is found in parks, large gardens, lining roadside and on country estates. Throughout Europe, it is more widespread.

Description - what does it look like? A deciduous tree growing to 46m, Common Lime usually has lots of suckers at its base. 

Its leaves are shaped like lopsided love hearts and finish in a sharp point. They are darker on top than underneath, and often covered in a sticky substance. 

This sticky substance is excreted by aphids and renowned for dripping on to parked cars.

Very pale, thin specialised leaves (bracts), from in late spring and from the central vein of these a stem with a cluster of four to 10 flowers emerges.

The flowers have small petals, but pronounced anthers, and are heavily scented. They are followed by small, green, hard fruits.

Possible lookalikes Other Limes look similar to Common Lime, but can be used in the same way. Its closest lookalikes are the two species it has hybridised from - Small-Leaved Lime (Tilia cordata) and Large-Leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos). 

The under side of the leaf differs between the three species - Common Lime has tufts of buffs hairs at the vein joints, Small-Leaved Lime has red tufts, and Broad-Leave Lime has much more hair and a hair leaf stem.

Use as a food The young leaves make an excellent salad leaf. The leaves are covered in a sticky substance, which is actually excreted by aphids and very sweet. This makes the leaves much sweeter to the taste. 

The young flowers have an unusual, exceptional floral taste and can be used to may syrups, jams, jellies, infusions, vinegars, and teas.

The flowers and young fruits can also be ground into a chocolate-tasting paste, but this decomposes quickly. 

The sap is also collected and used as a drink, or reduced down to make syrup or sugar. As with Silver Birch, The Foraging Course Company recommends collecting sap via a snipped twig rather than tapping.

Use in herbal medicine Common Lime has been used as a diaphoretic to induce a good fever, by raising the body temperature in order to fight infection. It has also been used as an antispasmodic, sedative, expectorant, and digestive aid.

In addition, it is believe to have calming properties, while a powder made from its burned wood has been used to treat burns. 

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses The inner bark makes a good cord for making mats, ropes and baskets. This cord can also be woven into cloth, as well as being made into paper. The charcoal of Common Lime is good for artists' use

Hazards Older flowers are thought to have a narcotic effect, so only young flowers should be used

Importance to other species Aphids love Limes, so these trees are of great importance to their predators - ladybird and hoverfly larvae.

The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of lots of moth species. These include Lime Hawk, Hook-Tip, and Peppered Moths.

The flowers provide an important food source for pollinators, and old trees provide habitat for hole nesting birds and burrowing beetles.

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!