These are Lime trees otherwise known as Lindens. The older specimens are Tilia × europaea hybrids but a number of these have died and been replaced with different cultivars. A faded tag suggested Tilia platyphollus or the big-leaved lime. Reviewing it now I also see the word ‘Streetwise’ and some arboreal detective work proves that indeed there is such a lime tree cultivar:
“Large. Upright habit and dark glossy leaf. Outstanding red winter shoot colour. Very striking tree, ideal for wide avenues, and the toughest urban situation. Unlike other Tilia platyphyllos, this Hillier selection has purple-brown autumn colour, similar to that of Acer platanoides Crimson King. Good avenue tree.” Hilliers Trees
All the trees are pollarded annually or bi-annually which means their branches are pruned back to a stump, creating a shorter trunk and a compact canopy of dense foliage. This makes for less shading and possibly extends the life of the trees, as well as sculpting an array of different characters, particularly amongst the older lime trees.
Whilst the season is still in its dull and overcast wintry grip, it’s a good opportunity to compare the skeletal structures of the two Tilia cultivars. Top row the T. × europaea are in leaf bud from top-notch to twiggy bottoms. The trunk is dark and creviced vertically with burls sprouting all up the stem. By contrast the ‘streetwise’ Tilia platyphollus have little definition perhaps because of their youth. The trunks are mottled and smooth and fit the’lime’ nomenclature so well because they appear to be dusted with said mineral
Amongst the living, there are still more casualties though so far decimation is confined to the mature trees. Perhaps age or excessive shade from London planes is responsible or even accidental injury from pollarding. These decaying stumps provide shelters for insects and ultimately are a food source for insect eaters. Some tree damage is obviously due to squirrels stripping the bark but I am not sure which came first – rodent damage or death.
Four rotations around Tavistock Square equals a mile which gives me plenty of exercise and a growing familiarity with the lime trees all along walkway. Meanwhile in the perimeter beds early spring flowers bring a touch of vigour to an otherwise static landscape.
It will be interesting to compare and contrast the younger streetwise limetrees with their European elders throughout the seasons as I am Tree Following with Lucy: There’s a link box on Loose and Leafy on 7th of the month for 7 days. Every month!