Features and characters of the individual
Lime trees: facts and stories
Everything about lime trees is soft and gentle. Their heart-shaped leaves are flexible, while their creamy white and pale yellow flowers have a delightful scent, attracting bees from several miles away. Bees can produce up to 10kg of aromatic honey (and sometimes even more) by collecting nectar from a single tree’s flowers. At the end of spring, the scent from a single tree can be noticeable throughout an entire city square or throughout the central garden of a block of buildings. In autumn and winter, seasonal ailments can be treated with an infusion made from lime tree flowers.
In Germanic cultures, lime trees are associated with Freya, the goddess of love, spring and fertility. In Ancient Greek mythology, lime trees are also a symbol of tenderness and fertility. Ovid’s story of Baucis and Philemon tells of a very old married couple who love each other and who have vowed to be inseparable, even in death. At the end of their life, they transform into trees with intertwining leaves and branches. Baucis, the wife, transforms into a lime tree, while her husband Philemon transforms into an oak. This transformation is a reward for showing hospitality and generosity when they were visited by the gods.
Did you know?
Lime trees have soft wood that is easily damaged. Yet, these trees have some strategies to help them to span centuries.
In summer, during periods of severe drought, these trees can shed their leaves and then grow them back once water is available again. If lime trees are cut down, they regrow shoots from their tree stumps. Lastly, if the environment becomes unfavourable, lime trees can shed some of their branches and part of their crown. Each of these strategies helps the tree to retain water and nutrients and to save energy.
The trunks of lime trees often hollow out with age. Sometimes the tree trunk will open all the way up, allowing you to step inside the trunk’s hollow interior. Over time, the tree will slowly shrivel up, sometimes leaving just a stump. The tree then waits for the opportune moment to start growing again: lime trees can have multiple lives, rising like a phoenix from their own ashes.
The benefits of small-leaved lime trees
This species is often planted for decoration, either in a band along a street, or as single specimens in parks, in squares and on roundabouts. They provide shelter and a source of food for a large number of other species, including various insects, birds, fungi, moss and lichen. They are a cornerstone of biodiversity in towns and cities.
Lime trees are good at fighting urban pollution. Their leaves capture fine particles released into the air by traffic, boilers and various industries. This purifies the air that we breathe. These trees also release a pleasant scent during spring. Last but not least, the large foliage creates a milder climate for the surrounding area, thanks to the cooling, humidifying effect it has on the air in summer. It also slows down cold winds in winter.
Lime trees are well-suited to our city. They show great resistance during periods of draught, and they blossom quite late, avoiding any frosts during spring. They are considered a vital ally in countering the effects of climate change in the future.
How to recognise a small-leaved lime tree
large (5–7cm), heart-shaped (cordate), with serrated edges; fall from the tree in autumn (deciduous)
dark green upper side in spring with felty silvery-white hairs on the underside; deep yellow in autumn; and no foliage in winter
winged, small and sphere-shaped, with 4–5 lines (capsules)
creamy white to pale yellow, very fragrant, numerous in June and July
Specifics about this pair of trees
There is plenty to admire when it comes to this pair of trees. Surrounded by the sandy playground, a concrete-roofed building and the street’s tarmac, these trees’ urban surroundings provide harsh living conditions – and yet, they’re still hanging in there!
These two trees are probably doing well because their roots have plenty of room to grow and develop. Sinking deep into the ground, their roots can reach all the moisture and nutrients that they need. The roots can also combine and fuse together. The trees are more resilient as a couple than they would be by themselves, withstanding the strong air currents that sometimes blow through the playground.
These two trees are forced to stay put and put up with whatever the environment throws at them, so they adapt and work together to make do with whatever is available to them. These trees are examples of self-sufficiency and restraint.
(Story and photos created by Priscille Cazin- Sylvolutions)
This portrait is:
- Enriched with an illustration from the Belgian Federal State Collection on permanent loan to the Meise Botanical Garden.
- An initiative of Christos Doulkeridis, Mayor of Ixelles , Audrey Lhoest, portfolio holder for Environment, Green Spaces and Planting, and Tourism and the Ixelles Communal executive