Basswood Trees Guide: Identifying Using This 1 Odd Leaf Feature

Heart-shaped leaves and clusters of small, round seeds of a basswood tree, framed within an oval on a green background.

The Basswood tree is a lovely, softwood species that is a common sight in North America, although you may not know it.

In fact, these trees are easily spotted once you know how to recognize a distinctive feature that graces their leaves… they are heart shaped, but not symmetrical, which is very odd!

Moreover, they hang aren’t actually attached to the branches!

The following guide includes a host of information about the Basswood tree, so that if you decide to go looking for this type of timber one afternoon… or simply decide that you’d like to plant some in your garden, you’ll be armed with everything you need to know.

Basswood Tree

(Tilia americana)

Basswood tree in an oval frame with green background.
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • Size: 60 to 80 Feet tall
  • Order: Malvales
  • Height: 50 to 80’
  • Spread: 30 to 50’
  • Blooms: June with Pale Yellow
  • Growth Rate: Height Increases of 13–24" annually
  • Average Life Span: 300-1000 Years
  • Country Or Region Of Origin: Central and Eastern North America
  • Common Name: American Basswood, Linden, or Tillia

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


Basswood trees have been a staple image for the central and east coast landscape of the United States. This tree, which can be easily identified by their large, saw-tooth-edged, heart-shaped leaves, has a diverse array of uses thanks to it being very light and soft – indeed, it’s known as a superior softwood because of these qualities.

If you live in the United States, you have, undoubtedly, interacted with an item made from basswood or even sat beneath one in a park or forest.

These tall trees, often composed of several trunks, are beloved by woodcarvers, beekeepers, and bird watchers alike. It is also a major resource for the logging industry. In all, the wood from these majestic trees are used for the creation of wood pulp, plywood, veneer, window shutters and blinds, musical instruments, and other more delicate creations like puppets.

Related Reading: How Many Trees Cut Down Each Year or in 2022? The Deforestation Crisis Explained

What Are American Basswood Trees Used For?

In fact, every single part of the tree is used and monetized. Its leaves have medicinal properties and can be made into a sweet tea. Its flowers create a unique source of pollen which can be transformed into delicious honey by busy bees. And its bark can be collected into fiber for the weaving of clothing and other tasks.

Close up image of a basswood tree flower, bright yellow with a bulb in the center and stamens surrounding it.

(Image: Erstmal_Pause5)

It is a multipurpose tree, and thanks to its rapid growth cycle, it’s easy to replenish.1

What Are Basswood Trees (Tilia Americana): Where Do Basswood Trees Grow?

The American basswood tree or Tilia americana is a member of the Linden tree family (Tiliacea). This family is composed of about 30 tree species that can be found through the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

Related Reading: How Many Trees Are Planted Each Year? Full List By Country, Type, Year

While the greatest number of species are associated with Asian nations, the Tilia genus (of which the American basswood is a part) is limited to certain areas in Europe and the eastern side of North America. In the UK, these deciduous trees are often referred to as “lime” trees while in the rest of Europe and North America, they are commonly referred to as “linden” trees.

Basswood tree seed drupe, dangling from a branch with leaves above it.

(Image: Jesús Cabrera6)

While the American basswood is often associated with the timber industry in the Great Lake states, there are several other varieties of basswood trees in the United States including:

  • The White basswood (Tilia americana heterophylla): this tree can be found in a band between Missouri and Alabama.
  • The Carolina basswood (Tilia americana caroliniana): this tree can be found throughout Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Florida.

While the trees differ from each other, they are known for being some of the largest trees (averaging 60 to 80 feet once they have matured but known to get up to 130 feet) in eastern and central North America. Not only that, but they grow incredibly fast. And that is a big component of why they are so important to the timber industry in the United States.

However, this also means that they are short-lived. The heartwood of Basswood trees are highly susceptible to decay. They have very soft wood, leading to many of the older trees being hollow. This provides the perfect nesting conditions for wildlife, particularly birds.

While the majority do have shorter life cycles, they have, on occasion, been known to live for over a thousand years – the oldest being around 2000 years old.

Basswood Tree Benefits

The tree also has its draw for honeybees and their keepers. Their flowers, particularly fragrant in May or June, easily attract large numbers of bees which then produce a distinctive honey, often known as “basswood honey.”

Graphic of Basswood Tree identification chart with bigleaf basswod leaves, american basswod, american basswood seeds, american basswood flowers, and basswood bark in oval frames.

(American Basswood Tree Image: MSha9)

Related Reading: Cherry Blossom Tree Tips, Banyan Tree Guide, Dogwood Tree Guide, Oak Tree Guide

The other reasons for its importance are linked to how the basswood grows. The base tends to support at least two trunks, though often more, and will proliferate further due to the fact that it is a great seeder. Thus, you will often see basswood stumps from which many new trunks have sprouted.

What Does a Linden Tree Look Like? How To Identify Basswood Flowers and Basswood Tree Bark, Seeds, and Fruit

You will soon learn the best way to identify an American basswood, but here are some more minor identifiers:

Basswood tree seed identification chart with images of Littleleaf Basswood seed, Silver Basswood seed, American Basswood seed, Bigleaf Basswood seed, and Crimean Basswood seed in circle frames.

(Bigleaf Basswood Image: MurielBendel10 and Silver Basswood Image: Rudolf Schäfer11)

  • The twigs are light brown or grey and end in dark red buds.
  • The bark tends to be almost white or silvery gray in color.
  • The bark texture is, at least in younger trees, quite smooth with a few fine ridges. Once the tree has matured, the bark splits open, leaving gray-black scars in the wood.
  • The tree has a distinctive fruit: they are arranged in small, open clusters of nutlets that descend from the center of a wing-like apparatus.
  • The wood is soft; it is perfect for woodworking and susceptible to decay.
  • They tend to be round-topped trees with very dense foliage.

These are all signs that you are looking at a basswood tree. But if you want to be confident in your identification then you need to look at the leaves.3

Linden Tree Identification: How To Identify Basswood Leaves

To properly identify an American basswood tree, you must study the leaves. These are the only surefire way of differentiating the basswood from some of its closest cousins.

Basswood tree leaves close up, green, heart-shaped left that is not symmetrical.

(Image: Joshua Mayer7)

You see, the basswood poses heart-shaped leaves that are often asymmetrical and lopsided. These leaves tend to be at least five to eight inches wide with a vibrant green top and a white to light-green underside.

Related Reading: Magnolia Tree Guide

Basswood Tree Leaves

The leaves often have a coarse, almost saw-toothed appearance to their edges.

They are not directly attached to the branches but hang down from a bract. The seeds are similarly attached to the leaves and clearly visible in season.

Do not, however, confuse the American basswood tree with the non-native basswood often referred to as “little leaf linden” (Tilia cordata). You can use the leaves to distinguish between the two. The native tree has much larger leaves and is, in fact, a larger tree.4

American basswood trees are in no short supply or demand. Wood from these trees is used across the world, and while it is often overlooked due to how soft it is, for many woodcarvers and other artists it is the perfect working material, particularly for instruments and interior home decoration.

Basswood tree leaf identification chart with American basswood, Littleleaf basswood, Crimean basswood, Bigleaf basswood, and Silver basswood leaves in oval frames.

It has many other uses, and, in fact, one of its best traits is that all of its components have their own, unique uses.

But for those who simply wish to enjoy nature, the basswood tree has its own charm: with its heart-shaped leaves, white-gray bark, and large canopies, it is a majestic tree to simply behold. Better yet, if you happen upon an older specimen, you will find a basswood tree that is filled with life.


1Nix, S. (2018, April 13). American Basswood Trees: A Desirable Wood and Landscape Tree. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from Treehugger: <>

2Nix, S. (2011, October 11). Identifying American Basswood Trees: Trees in the Linden Family (Tiliaceae). Retrieved November 23, 2021, from Treehugger: <>

3Bailey. (2020, July 13). Tree identification: American Basswood (linden). YouTube. Retrieved November 30, 2021: <>

4Wells, A. (2020, July 5). Tree talk: American Basswood. YouTube. Retrieved November 30, 2021: <>

5Erstmal_Pause. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

6Tilia americana Photo by Jesús Cabrera / CC BY 2.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

7Basswood (Tilia americana) Photo by Joshua Mayer / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <>

8Species Information Image: A linden tree in a protected area. Photo by Carl Tronders. (2023, July 22) / Unsplash License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <>

9Tilia americana (Lviv, Ukraine) Photo by MSha / CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from <,_Ukraine).JPG>

10Tilia platyphyllos fruit Photo by MurielBendel / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from <>

11Krim-Linde_Frucht_DSC_4656 Photo by Rudolf Schäfer / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from <>