Common Lime: Tilia vulgaris
Unlike the pink and white blossoms of early spring or the creamy wallop of elderflower in June, the petals of lime are somewhat more unassuming. Though tinged with yellow, they hide themselves beneath the flat, heart-shaped leaves and all but vanish into green.
Bees find the flowers irresistible, and the buzz of insects is almost as intense as the fragrance. Lime-tree or Linden honey is highly regarded for its sweet and mildly astringent taste, with one single tree able to produce 40 pounds (18kg) given favourable conditions.
Feeding on the leaves is a myriad of moth caterpillars, among them the lime hawk, vapourer and peppered.
It is the common lime that we see in our parks and avenues, a hybrid of the scarcer but native small-leaved and large-leaved trees. Its shade, smell and solidity has long made the common lime popular as an ornamental plant.
A tree might live for five centuries, and they are often grown for commercial use. In North America and China, the timber of the Tilia genus is known as basswood, and is widely used in the manufacture of furniture and window dressings. The trunks grow straight and tall, providing a softwood that is easily formed, yet strong and straight-grained.
In Europe, the lime has long been associated with fertility, and was often planted in France after battles as a symbol of liberty.