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Lime Tree Genus: Tilia An article from "The Trees Of Old England" by Leo H.Grindon
Lime Tree Genus: Tilia by Leo Hartley Grindon; Previously a Lecturer on Botany at the Royal School of Medicine, Manchester. Author of "Life: its Nature, Varieties, and Phenomena; " "British and Garden Botany; " " The Little Things of Nature; " "Echoes in Plant and Flower Life," and others.
Lime Tree Genus: Tilia A Sketch of the aspects, associations and uses of Lime Tree Genus: Tilia which constitute the forests and give effect to the scenery of Great Britain.
No tree indigenous to Great Britain presents so large a variety of pleasing features as the Lime. Less robust than the oak and chestnut, inferior in stature to the elm and fir, and in umbrageousness surpassed by the beech, in its own intrinsic qualities this beautiful production of nature is nevertheless on a par with all, and among trees is the analogue of that happy condition of body which the Greeks denominated evoapkos? neither fat nor lean, but gracefully intermediate. In the Lime, too, we are. reminded of that other elegant intellectual habit of the ancient dwellers by the blue AEgean, which led them to apply to massive and vigorous plants the epithet of "male," and to delicate and tender ones of similar profile and physiognomy, the corresponding and very expressive one of "female." The Greeks had but the faintest idea of the existence in plants of Sex; the clear knowledge of this truth belongs indeed to the last two centuries. They had sufficient appreciation, nevertheless, of the universal dualism of nature, to speak of things in a certain vague and general manner as masculine and feminine; and hence to this day, and every day, we have in use the pretty names "Filix-mas" and "Filix-foemina," or shield-fern and lady-fern. Whatever learned nomenclatures may choose to call them, Aspidium or Lastraea, Asplenium or Athyrium, these beloved old names will never die, but live for ever, like the green plumes to which they are bound. Filix-mas in the sweet recesses of the woodland, making great circles of curving leaves that remind us of the war feathers upon the head of an Indian chief; Filixfosmina by the side of the waterfall, and where streams bubble and gurgle, and the forget-me-nots put on their turquoises, what thousands of pleasing moments have these two admirable plants supplied to man and woman, after whom they were baptized; what thousands, too, of happy moments will they yet provide; and though mostly through their own original and immortal spell that harpooning power which such excellent beauty as theirs always possesses not alone will it be through this, but immediately through their names, which attract and give life where "brake" and "spleen-wort" are feeble and voiceless.
In the Lime, we say, the thought of this fine old habit of the classical ages is awakened, and not less forcibly than that of the felicitous Greek adjective, for the lime is one especially of the feminine class of trees. The oak, the elm, the chestnut, the beech, are masculine in contour and quality; the lime, the birch, the ash, are, like the acacia, no less emphatically of feminine look and attributes. Wanting the light tresses of the acacia, the most feminine of all trees; wanting the white limbs of the "lady-of the-woods," the lime is still fashioned after the sweet ideal which the others disclose in leaf and stem; and if we cannot single out, in a mechanical and prosaic manner, a specialty which shall at once decide its claim to be placed in the feminine section, that comes of the perfect manner in which the qualities of this beautiful tree are intermingled and adjusted.* (* In speaking of the Lime as a "feminine" tree, of course we do not mean that, like the female plants of willows and poplars, it is female in sex. Every blossom, and consequently every individual tree, is in the most perfect sense bisexual, every blossom having its own pistil and many stamens.) Is it not just so with a true woman the ultimate and crowning perfection of all those amiable features and qualities which in plants and flowers have a sweet foreshining? For here the heart is appealed to and satisfied, not alone by red and white, such as an artist can apply; not alone by gentle demeanour, which may be practised for the stage; not alone either by kindly words and fair courtesies and generosities, but by that matchless combination of all these, and many more things, for which there is only one name a true woman.
The Lime-tree is less known as a tree of the woods and forests than of parks, pleasure-grounds, and gardens. It is very frequent, also, as an ornament of squares and open spaces in towns and cities, as witness those delightful avenues past which the visitor makes Ms way towards Bristol Cathedral. In the woods, however, occurs, and in some parts of England very abundantly, a form of this tree with smaller and thicker leaves, the green of which is at the same time darker, and which is usually distinguished by authors as the Tilia parvifolia, the lime of the park and garden bearing the name of Tilia Europcea. In gardens and arboretums is likewise met with a third form, technically distinguished as the Tilia grandifolia, the leaves being larger, and pale and downy upon the undersurface. Whether these three forms be distinct "species," let those pronounce who can define what a species is. It is sufficient for all ordinary and useful purposes to regard them as strongly-accentuated utterances of a single idea, and with this understanding alone is it correct, perhaps, to speak of the Europcea as a native of our own island. In any case, the Europcea has been in England so long as now to have become perfectly naturalised; and the grandifolia, though far less abundant, and at present still possessing the aspect of a guest, will no doubt become so likewise in the course of another century. Centuries, though they express a great, deal in the history of human life, simply mark spacious periods in the chronology of trees. All three forms correspond pretty nearly in general figure. The tree is symmetrical, with a solid but rather short trunk; the general outline, viewing it from a distance, is roundish or ovoid, and, in aged individuals, the lower branches, which are then often very massive, are prone to bend to the earth, the extremities resting upon the grass, so as to form a green canopy or natural tent, after the manner of certain varieties of other trees that are styled "weeping." A lime of this description stands upon the lawn at Oulton Park, Cheshire, and is justly esteemed one of the most striking and beautiful trees in the whole county. When favoured by soil and situation, the dimensions the lime can attain are prodigious. At Moor Park, there are, or were a few years ago, some individuals of remarkable magnificence, the head of one being more than 120 feet in diameter, and the stature more than 100 feet. The trunk of this tree is in circumference no less than eight yards! As regards the possible longevity of the lime, what this is may be judged from the fact that at Trous, in the Grisons, there existed, in 1798, a lime which was celebrated as far back as A.D. 1424, and the age of which, in 1798, could not have been less than five hundred and eighty years.
The particular features of the Lime are found in the crowding of the heart of the tree with brushwood when somewhat advanced in life; in the buds, in the shape of the leaves, in the flowers, the honey, and the fruit. Lest in referring to the "fruit" there should arise any misconception, and the sour-juiced "lime " of the West Indies be thought of, let it be, understood that that invaluable little lemon is the produce of an entirely different tree, a first cousin of the orange and the citron. Let it also be mentioned here, that the genuine and original name of the tree we are considering is not Lime, but Line, or more properly, Linden a name referring to the use of the tough bark for making mats and cordage. Under the name of "bass," or "bast," gardeners use vast quantities of this material for tying up plants. Were the tree always called by its much more elegant and poetical name of Linden Chaucer's own name for it on two occasions at least confusion would never arise. Even "teil," the name under which it is mentioned in the Old Testament,* (* If the Hebrew be rightly translated, but the proper rendering of the word used by the prophet would appear to be " terebinth." Elsewhere the same Hebrew word is mistakenly rendered " oak " and " elm.") and which is a modification of Tilia, would be better than the barbarism, unfortunately now too deeply established for eradication, which requires us to write m instead of n. What may be the origin and signification of the name Tilia itself is obscure. The word occurs in Virgil and other authors of old Rome; but by the Greeks this tree was called (f>i\vpa. VirgiFs allusions are to the honey yielded so abundantly by the flowers, and to the value of the timber for purposes where lightness is a great merit. Hence his expression "tilise leves," the smooth-grained lindens. In our own times the wood of the lime tree is valued chiefly by the carver. Grinling Gibbons, the most celebrated wood-carver this country has produced, usually employed it for his more delicate and elaborate work, specimens of which, nearly two hundred years old, are preserved at Windsor Castle, at Chatsworth, and in St. Paul's Cathedral, the lines sharp as when they came from his dextrous fingers. Architects find it serviceable for models of intended buildings; the makers of pianofortes also use it for sounding-boards, since this wood does not warp with the changes of the atmosphere. In colour it is pale yellow or whitish; in texture it is close-grained, and something in its composition preserves it free from the attacks of insects. Baskets and cradles were formerly, and perhaps are still, manufactured from the young shoots.
The peculiarity referred to in respect of the twiggy thicket in the centre of limes that have attained maturity, is one not observable in any other British tree. So dense is the mass, that to climb a full grown lime is nearly impossible. That which renders the tree inaccessible to boys and men converts it, however, into an asylum for little birds, and beautiful is it to observe how, when chased by a hawk or other enemy, the fugitives take refuge in the tangle.
No doubt a similar asylum is provided in many other ways by the kindness of nature, which means, of course, the goodness of Him who takes care even of the sparrows; but it is in the lime that, as a large tree, we are made most powerfully sensible of the precaution for their safety. I do not know anything in nature that can give more delight to a kindly and loving heart than the contemplation of its safeguards. Food, drink, warmth, sunshine, fresh air, seem to come almost as a matter of course. Except under occasional and exceptional conditions and circumstances, of these things there is always plenty; but asylums, places of security and retreat, have to be specially considered and prepared. Rarely, however, do we see the preparation set forth conspicuously. As a rule, that beautiful primitive law of the world and all its contents, that nothing shall exist for itself alone, but always for the sake, at the same time, of some other thing, which shall be the happier and the richer for it as a rule, I say, that beautiful law is here again exemplified and declared. Even the weed and unconsidered wild-flower, things that seem useless, become houses of refuge. See how the little fishes hide their silver coats among the water flags! See how the lizards of the seaside sand hills, emerald-green and tawny-grey, agile as thought, quick-eyed and docile as love, dart to the speary grass that grows like a mimic wheat-field in those trackless deserts! "Deserts" did we say? When a thousand forms of life, brilliant beetles, cased in armour of bronze and crimson; fairy -like butterflies, whose wings are azure above, and beneath dotted with jewels; birds that lift up cheering voices, and lay down pretty feathers; when the golden-flowered and fragrant galium, and the milk-white cups of the grass-of Parnassus, make a desert, then let the haunt of the lizards receive this name in England always thoughtless, and usually unjust.
By its Buds the lime-tree may be told in earliest spring. While those of the oak are ovoid and amber-tinted, and those of the beech like little brown spikes, those of the lime are short and thick, and of a reddish colour. They nicely illustrate the facility with which accurate botanical knowledge may be secured at seasons when many people think that botany is impossible because there are "no flowers." True, it is by the flowers and fruit that the last and most intimate knowledge is gained; but to neglect the buds and other early and anticipative parts, is to behave as if the study of man consisted only in the contemplation of his maturity, and the golden preparations that make childhood were unworthy of note. Nothing can be known even approximately, unless it be watched during development. The best part of the history of life is that of its changes, for wherever life is normal and progressive, as all life was intended to be, every change must needs be marked by something new, and relatively more beautiful than any event or state that has yet been registered. Life that is not so characterised is miscalled; it is decay, and not vitality the grave that is ahead, and not the fruitage life was always intended to receive. Think back only the last seven years of your existence! Can he who during the lapse of those seven years has not gained alike in faith in the Infinite "Wisdom and Goodness, in love of the beautiful in God's works and the human heart, in the estimation of his friends, and in his own self-respect, be said to have lived? I trow not. Changes he must needs have experienced, but changes that do not elevate must needs degrade.
The Leaves of the linden form one of its prime characteristics. They are simple and undivided, in general outline roundish, but with the extremity long drawn-out, and at the base remarkably unsymmetrical. While in the elm the two portions separated by the midrib spring from different points, here, in the lime, they spring from the same point, but one portion is much larger than the other, and a curve is produced backwards, or in the direction of the petiole. Hence we get in the lime-tree the first example of that elegant configuration which culminates in the leaves of the Begonias, and in the leaflets of the plants called Epimedium : so does nature always announce beforehand that which by-and-by she intends to show forth illustriously. Everything below the highest form is a prelude and a proem; the melody tried first in a minor key. The stalks which sustain the leaves are longer than in most other trees, and to this is no doubt owing much of that ease and lightness of aspect which places the lime among the feminine trees. The leaves are smooth also, and glabrous or nearly so, except in the grandifolia, but in the angles of the veins, upon the under-surface, may be observed little tufts of light-brown velvet. Spring is not long without them, though they are by no means among the earliest, and, like several others which delay their advent, they are uncareful to remain to the end. The end, in truth, they never see, for, though exceptional individuals may retain their foliage till November, as a rule, the lime leads the way in surrender to cold; the track of the yellow sandalled autumn is found first amid its boughs.
" Those virgin leaves, of purest vivid green, Which charm'd ere yet they trembled on the trees, Now cheer the sober landscape in decay, The lime first fading"
Next, as to the Flowers. These, in the linden, differ materially from those of trees which bear catkins, and correspond closely with such blossoms as those of the apple and pear, wanting only in gaiety of tint. A glorious spectacle is it to go beneath a linden in full flower, and look up. This is the only way in which its amazing wealth of bloom can be discovered and understood, for such is the disposition of the foliage and of the flower-peduncles, that at a little distance the tree seems to be no more than dappled or variegated; viewed, on the other hand, from below, it is a very heaven of fragrant honey-cups. That favoured characteristic of the violet which has made this flower, with the poets, the emblem of modesty, is not more marked in the little hedge-bank blossom than in the deep-hearted and lady-like linden, which surpasses, too, all trees that grow in England in benevolence to the bees. Who, in regard to this, does not remember the good old (Ebalian in Virgil? "Here planting among the shrubs, white lilies, vervain, and esculent poppies, he equalled, in his contented mind, the wealth of kings. The first was he to pluck the rose of spring, and the first to gather the fruits of autumn; and even when sad winter split the rocks with frost, and bridled the current of the streams with ice, yes, in that very season was he cropping the locks of the soft acanthus. Lindens had he, and pines, in Several plants, with the ancients, bore the name of great abundance; he, therefore, was the first to abound with prolific bees, and to strain the frothy honey from the well-pressed combs."
Lime Tree Genus: Tilia An article from "The Trees Of Old England" continued...
Lime Tree Genus: Tilia
Our English poets freely refer to the honey of the lime, especially the class of writers represented in Mrs. Hemans and L. E. L. Cowper adverts to it "The lime at dewy eve Diffusing odours." And, though not in relation to this particular circumstance, we have the tree mentioned also by Lord Byron, in "Lara." Prose writers likewise not infrequently introduce the lime, as much for this reason, no doubt, as for any other, when they would suggest ideas of graceful form and of a delicately-scented atmosphere; Fenelon, for example, in his description of the enchanted island of Calypso. To a mind of pure and elegant tastes, the lime always appeals powerfully, and perhaps it would be no error of judgment to deem preference for it one of the instincts of an amiable and tender disposition, such as admires the grand and stately, but still best loves Acanthus. That one to which the name is here applied, appears to have been that beautiful and curious variety of the common holly, which, instead of bearing bracelets of scarlet berries, produces yellow ones. That it was certainly a berried and evergreen shrub, appears from the allusions in Eclogue, iv. 20, and in Georgic ii. 119. where the bees "feed on the glowing crocus and the luscious lime." the little and the pretty. When the bees have access to large numbers of limes, so that the storage in their waxen cities has been derived principally from this source, the flavour and quality of the honey are particularly good, and quite as marked as when these creatures feed extensively upon the heather, or upon aromatic plants of the Labiate kind, to which latter is owing the peculiar flavour of the honey of Narbonne. In some parts of Lithuania there are forests composed almost exclusively of lime-trees. The bees gather their harvest with rapidity, and the combs being almost immediately removed from the hives, the flavour is preserved pure, and the inhabitants realize large sums by the sale of what the insects have so assiduously collected.
The whole subject of the production of honey by flowers is very pleasing. There are few probably by which a less or greater quantity is not yielded, since the presence of this substance appears to serve as an attraction to many little creatures of tender wing. Rifling the blossom, and rambling about in it, they help to convey the pollen from the stamens to the pistil, and thus unconsciously help forward the great function of reproduction. How beautiful are these various steps in the exquisitely-adjusted economies of nature! The earth, shone on to-day by the self-same stars which delighted the eyes of the first members of mankind, is enriched also with the descendants of the identical trees and flowers which excited their curiosity and allured their affections; and descendants of the now existing individuals will no doubt carry on for ever, in one unbroken stream, the loveliness that every summer renews. How is this effected? Solely and absolutely through the instrumentality of the apparatus we call the " flower." The flower, in turn, needs that its parts shall be lightly touched, as when the musician runs his hand over the harp-strings; they who touch so tenderly are the unconsidered little visitors and dwellers whose presence is often thought an intrusion; and they, it would appear, are invited and sustained by the nectar in the heart of the flower. Usually the honey is not placed in any special receptacle, but round about the feet of the stamens and pistil, just as we see green mosses forming a bank round the base of the trunk of an old tree in the wood. There are plenty of examples, however, of such special cups or vases for it, and these are of the most beautiful and curious diversity. In the crown-imperial the vases are like round white eyes, six in every flower, or one to every petal; in the grass-of Parnassus they constitute the palms of little hand-like bodies, every one of which is provided with an uneven number of fingers, usually either eleven or thirteen, so that the central one shall stand higher than the others, which gradually diminish in height as they are further and further from the middle. In the aconite, again, the honey-cups resemble two little birds, and in the hellebore they remind us of certain bivalve seashells. The lime-tree is one of those plants in which no special provision is made for the care of the honey : in botanical language, although brimming with nectar, the flowers are unprovided with " nectaries." Keen was the appreciation of the old naturalist who adopted this classic term into the language of phytology. The pleasant beverage feigned in the most ancient times to be the drink of the gods, might well have its appellation transferred to that which gives new charm to the loveliness of the flower. Virgil's immortal description of the bees must furnish us yet once a,gain with an illustration : " Some address themselves to the gathering of food, and by fixed agreement have their occupation in the fields; some deposit within the inclosure of the hive Narcissus' tears,* and clammy gum from the bark
* The flowers of the daffodil and other species of the genus Narcissus are provided, as all who know these plants will recollect, with a peculiar cup in the centre. These cups, mythology tells us, contain the tears of the fabled youth whose name they bear,
" Narcissus pining o'er the untainted spring," and are beautifully alluded to by Milton, in Lycidas,
" Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed, And daffodillies fill their cups with tears, To strew the laureat hearse where Lycid lies "
of trees, for the foundation of the combs; then build into arches the viscid wax. These, on the other hand, bring up and tend the younger ones, the hope of the nation; others again, distend the cells with liquid nectar."; One other circumstance connected with the lime deserves mention : it is one of the trees upon which the mistletoe occasionally grows. The limes in the Home Park, Windsor, are, or were a few years ago, richly adorned with it; there are other examples in Bushy Park, and in the avenue at Hampton Court, and at Penshurst Park, in Kent, with doubtless very many more in different parts of the country. History connecting the mistletoe so especially with the oak, it is well to know that this famous parasite grows upon nearly a score of other kinds of tree, including the maple, the ash, the poplar, the apple and pear, the hawthorn, the white-beam, the service, the willow, the hazel-nut, the Robinia, the holly, and the walnut. In summer we seldom notice the mistletoe. Concealed by the foliage of the tree it inhabits, not until autumn has stripped all away, and winter has rendered the woods transparent, and the splendours of the ivy and holly are disclosed, do we discover its presence. Then how beautiful the contrast of its innumerable green quills and glistening pearls, with the dark-brown armour around and below all of those stalwart foresters that lies open to view. Then,too, how beautifully is suggested to us the value and excellence of deciduous things, for were all mantles to remain for ever, how much should we remain unconscious of! Light and summer, that reveal so much, hide even more. Darkness, that we think so dreadful, takes us away from earth to the heavenly lamps, and that which till now was silent, begins to speak.
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