Tilia is a genus of large decidous tree species, which grow in the temperate zones of the Northern hemisphere. They are usually called lime trees in Europe, and linden or basswood in the U.S. The lindens typically grow very tall, up to 70 to 100 feet.
Their leaves are heart-shaped, but their dimensions differ from species to species. Flowers are yellow and growing in small clusters, but similar in all species. They have a long ribbon-like bract attached to each flower. Its role is to make the pea-like seed to travel easy, twirling in the wind. Tilia flowers are sweet and sticky and the fruits are mucilaginous.
The flowers contain flavonoids which are acting like antioxidants; volatile oils which give the linden flower tea such a pleasant taste, but also mucilaginous constituents, which soothe and reduce inflammations. It also contains tannins which acts as astringent. This is why the linden flower tea is often used in healing many ilnesses, especially cough, colds, fever, headache, inflammation, and as a diuretic and sedative. I remember giving linden tea to my children to help them sleep well at night, just as my mom gave me when I was a child.
In our country are growing two linden species, Tilia tomentosa, also called Silver linden and Tilia cordata, also called Little-leaf linden. Another well-known species is Tilia americana, also called American linden, that grows mostly in the U.S.
From the two species growing in our country, the silver linden flowers make a better tea - as my mom always taught me, and I know which flowers to pick. However, the little-leaf linden blossoms have the highest level of flavonoids and other constituents, and have better results when used for medicinal purposes. The tea made with little-leaf flowers is more mucilaginous, which makes it a bit unpleasant, although the taste and scent are the same.
In June, when the lindens are starting to bloom and spread their strong scent in the air, it is a pleasure to walk outside, but not if you are allergic to pollen, like I am. However, this can be resolved with allergy medicine, so I can also enjoy this wonderful time of the year. Little-leaf lindens bloom first, and after their blooms are gone, the silver lindens start to bloom too. Many people, young and old, harvest the scented flowers from the trees, in the park or on the street; older people pick them from the lower branches, while younger people climb on ladders or chairs, and even climb up in the trees. I have always wondered why no one from the City Hall ever comes, in an organized manner, to harvest the linden flowers from all the trees we have in Bucharest. Some people aren't concerned about protecting the trees, which is why the tree branches are oftenly ripped off, when harvested in that manner. Usually, these people can be found selling the linden blossoms at the market or on the street, to make some extra money. But, all in all, those are only isolated incidents, so that the lindens have survived during all these years and some of them are very old, like a few hundred years old.
One year when the lindens were blooming, my 10-year-old son and his friends thought they could make some extra money by harvesting linden flowers and selling them to me. It had been a very dry year, with less rain that usual, so the plants and trees were covered with dust. I hadn't realized that until I saw my son and the other boys with a bag full of linden flowers at my door. They were all so dirty, especially their faces and hair, not to mention their clothes. Of course I paid them, but also sent them to the bathroom to clean up. I had to wash the linden blossoms too, even though some of the pollen and scent was washed away too, but at least they were clean and safe to make a good tea.
As now it's that time of year in Romania, when the Lindens are blooming and the air is full of linden scent, I'm going out for a walk in the village and I'll take a paper bag with me, just in case; maybe I can find a tree with lower branches so I can harvest some flowers. If you are lucky enough to be in the Northern hemisphere this time of year, maybe you can also enjoy a nice walk through the lindens; you'll love it!