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Honouring the "tree of love"

The Small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) has been chosen as the Tree of the Year 2016. In the past, its heart-shaped crown earned it the tag "tree of love". In Germany the Tree of the Year (Baum des Jahres) foundation chooses a tree each year to draw attention to its special characteristics and its importance for people in the hope that it will continue to be planted and protected.

 

The Small-leaved lime is native to the whole of Europe. The tree can grow up to 25 metres high with a trunk several metres thick. It typically grows into a heart shape, with the point uppermost, its leaves are heart-shaped and even its roots develop a "heart" system, all of which possibly accounts for its being a symbol of fertility. Tilia cordata is also known as the later linden tree, because it flowers as late as July. When the tree is in flower, its unique honey-sweet perfume can be smelt 200 metres away. The name linden is assumed to come from an Old German word that means supple and soft, it's ideal wood for carving.

A tree that grows easily in forests, parks and gardens

Tilia cordata was once the most abundant forest tree, it's also very popular as a city tree. In autumn, its golden foliage lihts up gardens and parks. The foliage helps to reduce traffic noise and isn't particularly fussy about where it grows. There are very few diseases or pests that attack them, and they live a long time – in some cases as long as 1,000 years. Small-leaved lime trees tolerate shade for many years, so that they can be successfully planted in the shadow of larger older trees. The one drawback is the sweet and sticky substance secreted by the aphids that feed on the foliage in spring and summer. This honeydew drips onto everything under the tree – parked cars, bikes and benches – and makes them black and sticky.

The history of the lime tree

The lime tree has long played an important role in cultural history. In Central Europe, the lime tree marked the place in the centre of the village where people came together to exchange information, to sit in judgement, to discuss the latest happenings, to dance and enjoy each other's company. People believed that a lime tree growing in front of the house would keep the inhabitants safe; it was also a symbol of hospitality. Lime blossom tea is considered to help you sweat out a fever, to relax cramps, to detoxify your blood and to improve your digestion.


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de