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Intro to Trees of Indiana: American Basswood

The classic and trusted book "Fifty Common Trees of Indiana" by T.E. Shaw was published in 1956 as a user-friendly guide to local species.  Nearly 70 years later, the publication has been updated through a joint effort by the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Indiana 4-H, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and reintroduced as "An Introduction to Trees of Indiana."

Line drawing of an American basswood leaf and seed clusterA printed copy of the full publication is available for purchase for $7 in the Purdue Extension Education Store. The field guide helps identify common Indiana woodlot trees. 

Each week, the Intro to Trees of Indiana web series will offer a sneak peek at one species from the book, paired with an ID That Tree video from Purdue Extension forester Lenny Farlee to help visualize each species as it stands in the woods. Threats to species health as well as also insight into the wood provided by the species, will be provided through additional resources as well as the Hardwoods of the Central Midwest exhibit of the Purdue Arboretum, if available. 

This week, we introduce the basswood or Tilia Americana.

The American basswood, which is also called linden, is commonly identified by its simple heart-shaped leaves with finely toothed margins, flat bark with long running lines up and down the trees, and possibly a ring of sprouts originating from the base of the tree. The clusters of small, nutlike seeds (⅓-inch in diameter) are attached by a stem to a leaflike wing.

American basswood wood panel from highest grade to lowestThis species is often found on moist sites, deep, loamy soils, with its range stretching from the Great Plains east and from southern Canada through northern Arkansas, Kentucky and the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

With heights reaching 70 to 80 feet tall, basswood can offer good shade. It also offers good flowering for bees. This species has a light colored, fine-grained wood varying from a white color to a very light brown or flesh color.

Due to its weight and stability, basswood has historically been used to make Venetian blinds and key stock in pianos. It also is a preferred species for carving, including items like hunting decoys, etc. 

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