Back to topics
Back to trees

The Lime

The Lime

The Lime

The Silk Wood Lime
The Westonbirt Avenue of Limes
The Holker Great Lime

Lime Leaf

Lime Leaf


According to Tree Yoga (see references below), the Lime is attuned to the spiritual properties of balance, healing, peace and tolerance.

Alternatively known as the linden, or basswood, tilia, the lime, is a genus of about 30 species of trees. They are native throughout most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere, in Asia (where the greatest species diversity is found), Europe and eastern North America. They are not native to western North America. Most limes are large deciduous trees with cordate (heart shaped) leaves arranged alternatively on the stem. They are often planted along the edge of roads as they tolerate heavy pruning. Rope used to be made from the inner bark of the Lime tree. The name basswood, particularly common in North America, originates from the inner fibrous bark of the tree, known as bast in Old English. A very strong fibre was obtained from the bast by peeling off the bark and soaking in water for a month; after which the inner fibres can be easily separated.

The Silk Wood Lime

Located in the Silk Wood at Westonbirt Arboretum, five miles from Tetbury, Gloucestershire (admission charges apply), this is the oldest lime in Britain. It is in the form of a coppice stool over 50 feet in diameter, and amazingly, all the growths in the coppice are parts of one tree. This was established by Oliver Rackham of Cambridge university and John White, then curator of Westonburt in the 1970s. DNA testing also established that this tree is over 2000 years old.

Although it might look like a large shrub, this large thicket of lime stems is a relic of an earlier age when the woodland was intensively managed to provide wood for fuel and other domestic use. The regular cutting of trees back to ground level is known as coppicing and was a well established practice as far back as Anglo-Saxon times. Over hundreds of years of repeated cutting, the stump (or stool, as it is known) gradually spreads outwards in a ring until it reaches the proportions of this one.

The Lime coppice at Westonbirt Arboretum

The Lime avenue at Westonbirt Arboretum

The Westonbirt Avenue of Limes

Westonbirt Arboretum also has a magnificant avenue of limes, shown opposite. Take a stroll down Lime Avenue amidst the butterflies and bees busy collecting nectar? Westonbirt is open 365 days a year, so you can choose exactly when to visit, or try different seasons, you will not be disappointed.

The Holker Great Lime

One of the largest limes in Britain with a curiously fluted trunk, having a girth of 25 feet, this tree stands in the grounds of Holker Hall, which is well signposted off Junction 36 of the M6. It is one of the Tree Council's 50 Great British trees.

Holker Hall is owned by Lord Cavendish. The earliest record of a house on this site dates from the beginning of the 16th. century. It is thought that this lime was planted in the early 17th. century when a formal garden was established.

The Holker Great Lime

The Lime in Natural Healing

The Lime is the tree of healing and in herbal lore, no other tree has such a wide spectrum of applications. The leaves, flowers, roots and bark are all used to promote well-being. Asclepius, the founder of Western medicine, reputedly gained his knowledge from the centaur Chiron, son of Phylira who was the original spirit of the lime.

The lime has a long history in Europe of being used for soothing tension and irritability and as a heart tonic. In fact, the German word for "to soothe" is "lindern". A tea made from the flowers reduces cholesterol and high blood pressure. Sweetened with honey, it calms agitation and promotes peaceful sleep in children. The hot tea is good for reducing diarrhoea and clearing congested sinuses. The flower tea applied externally soothes inflammation on the skin. In the middle ages, lime trees were planted by royal decree along many roads to ensure that the harvest of its flowers was plentiful, because they were used for the curative properties, while sitting under lime tree was said to cure epilepsy and other nervous illnesses.

Linden blossom hydrosol (ie., in distilled water) has a soothing and draining effect on the skin and can be used as a facial tonic. It can also be used in an aqueous cream for hypersensitive skins. It is a tissues relaxant the and if applied in a night cream, the skin feels refreshed in the morning.

Linden Blossom absolute:

(Extract from: ‘Natural Aromatic Materials: Odours and Origins’ by Tony Burfield, 2004)

Linden Blossom absolute is obtained by solvent extraction of the blossoms of the Small Leaved Lime, Tilia cordata Mill. (Fam. Tiliaceae) or the Large leaved Lime Tilia platyphyllus Scop. or Tilia x europea L., a hybrid of the former two species. The blossoms open in late June/July in the U.K. and on a hot day the fragrance can be intoxicatingly powerful.

Linden blossom absolutes as sold into perfumery & aromatherapy often contain added synthetics such as lilial (now a sensitiser under SCCNFP opinion), cyclamen aldehyde, even hydroxycitronellal (which is also restricted IFRA); to make them appear more “natural” synthetic farnesol is sometimes added, but this material may have a different distribution of isomers to the naturally occurring farnesol in Linden blossom.

The absolute is a red-brown to brownish-green clear viscous liquid or plastic solid with an odour that is honeyed, powdery, fresh floral. Many describe the honeyed notes as sweet and carob-like.

The Lime in Folklore

There are many myths and traditions associated with the lime tree including those from Ancient Egypt Ancient Greece, Celtic times and the Middle Ages.

Oak trees and limes often grow close to each other. This could be the basis of a Greek myth, which speaks of a time when the gods, Zeus and Hermes, decided to pay a visit to the land of mortals to see if they were behaving themselves. In disguise, they knocked on many doors and found that no one would give them shelter, eventually, they came to the house of Philemon and Baucis who welcomed them. To reward them for their generosity, Zeus granted them their wish to remain together forever after they died and transformed Philemon into an Oak tree and Baucis into a tilia (lime tree) so they could be side by side.

The lime tree was sacred to the Celts and judicial cases were commonly heard by a court sitting under a lime tree. This was said to inspire fairness and justice.

Because of the heart-shaped leaves the Lime tree was dedicated to Venus, goddess of love and In folklore medicine, preparations from the lime were said to cure all diseases relating to her.


Acknowledgements and further reading:

Tree Yoga - a WorkbookSatya Singh and Fred HagenederEarthdancer
The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern IrelandJon Stokes and Donald RodgerConstable
The Oxford Companion to English LiteratureSir Paul HarveyOUP
The Observer's Book of TreesFrederick Warne & Co. Ltd.
The Green Man Tree OracleJohn Matthews & Will WorthingtonBarnes & Noble
The Celtic Book of Seasonal MeditationsClaire HamiltonRed Wheel
The Meaning of TreesFred HagenederChronicle Books

Top of Page

© Ken James 2008