Height: The American basswood tree often grows to 80 feet or more in good sites.
Lifespan: Up to 200 years
Fall Foliage: Uninspiring yellow to unattractive brown.
Range: The entire eastern portion of North America, as far as Manitoba and the Dakotas.
Typical Habitat: A flexible species, the American basswood can be found in a variety of sites, however it grows best in well-drained, low-lying areas with rich soil.
The American Basswood Tree: A Bee’s Best Friend
The American basswood is celebrated for many reasons, and it is certainly a wonderful tree to encounter on the trail. It’s fruit, which hang suspended from a leaf-like bract, are quite interesting, and it’s generally an attractive, often large, tree anyway.
But this tree may be most beloved for its fragrant flowers, which attract large numbers of bees. Part of the tree’s appeal to bees lies in its sweet nectar, but it is also important because it tends to bloom after most other trees in the forest have stopped doing so.
The honey made from American basswoods is particularly popular among connoisseurs.
American Basswood Tree Identification: Tips & Tricks
There are two species with which the American basswood is likely to be confused.
The first is the red mulberry tree (Morus rubra), which is another U.S. native, that produces somewhat similar-looking leaves. However, the mulberry rarely reaches the size of large basswoods, and the fruit (when present) makes it easy to distinguish between the two. Also, the undersides of basswood leaves are slightly fuzzy, unlike those of the mulberry (Morus spp.).
The other species with which you’re likely to confuse this species is the littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata). A close cousin of the American basswood, this European native is widely planted as a street or shade tree. However, it has – as one would expect, given its common name – smaller leaves than the American species.
The littleleaf linden’s leaves are about 2 to 3 inches long, while the American basswood’s leaves are generally 3 to 6 inches long.
The American Basswood Tree: Additional Information
Need to know more about this interesting species? Check out the resources below:
- University of Florida, School of Forest Resources: Excellent and digestible overview of the species, including identification tips.
- North Carolina State Extension: General overview, including notes on notable cultivars.
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Nice information and flower photos, as well as information about their pollinators.