Friday 16 August 2013

Tilia tomentosa 'Petiolaris'

The best of several Tilia tomentosa 'Petiolaris' in the Yorkshire Arboretum, planted in 1979: still a youngster.
For the past few days the scent of a lime-tree has been blowing about the Yorkshire Arboretum on the warm breeze and perfuming the air most delightfully. The great trees of the Castle Howard avenue finished flowering some weeks ago, so I tracked it upwind to our grove of Tilia tomentosa 'Petiolaris', the weeping silver lime, of which we have about 10 trees, planted in 1979.

'Petiolaris' is one of the noblest of big trees, easily achieving 30 m in due course, and rivalling anything in its magnificence of strong limbs and broad crown, but its great beauty comes from the pendulous branches and the curious twisting of some of its petioles, resulting in the white underside of the leaves being turned upwards. The canopy thus looks silvered at all times, but especially when shivered by a breeze. It has been valued for this feature for a long time - the records suggest it was first planted in England in the 1840s, but its real origin is hazy but it may have come rom the Ukraine. The relationship of 'Petiolaris' to Tilia tomentosa, the common silver lime of the Balkans and eastern Europe, has been debated for years, but Donald Pigott, whose life-long study of Tilia was published last year (Lime-trees and Basswoods, Cambridge University Press), is of the opinion that it is merely an unusual clone of T. tomentosa.

Twisted petioles reveal the white undersides of the leaves.
The flowers are borne extremely profusely, and as noted above, are exceptionally fragrant. They make a delicious tisane when steeped in hot water, and on the tree attract a huge number and diversity of insects. Our trees were humming with the sound of insects today, lovely to hear - what Matthew Arnold called 'the live murmur of a summer's day'.

The flowers of Tilia tomentosa 'Petiolaris' are wonderfully fragrant.

There have been huge numbers of Peacock butterflies in the arboretum in the past week: this one had joined the throng of bees and hoverflies on a 'Petiolaris' tree.


  1. In your experience is it toxic to any species of bee, as often stated?

  2. In your experience is it toxic to any species of bee, as often stated?


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.