Along Hampshire Street here in Quincy there are several magnificent European Linden trees (Tilia cordata, or Little-leaf Linden). Such an appealing species, with their heart-shaped leaves and small round pendant seeds, each one shaded by an oval bract. These trees seem to know that growing too close to a power-line will result in chain-saw butchery by the electric company crews. The trunks lean away from the lines, grow above them, then lean back. Are they perhaps sensitive to electromagnetic fields? Perhaps I’m being too anthropomorphic, but this seems like some sort of vegetable intelligence.
Here is a photo of the particularly massive base of one of these lindens. The tree is probably about eighty years old.
This is a photo of another very tall linden which cannily avoided the power lines:
I’ve long been puzzled that our native linden,Tilia americana, is seldom planted as a street or yard tree on this continent.
They are most often known as basswood trees; the locals call them “Linn” trees. It’s a beautiful and fast-growing tree with larger leaves than those of the European species. Years ago, back when our kids were young, I would venture down into the bottomland woods during the winter with a five-gallon bucket and a shovel. I remember six-year-old Adrian, our daughter, accompanying me on one of these jaunts. The little basswood saplings were easy to identify: the terminal buds are bright red and can be seen from a distance.
Over the course of a few years I transplanted about eight of the saplings. The last time I saw them they averaged about sixteen inches in diameter. Wistfully, I wonder how they are doing these days.
An aside: If you ever happen to be around one of the Tilia species, one which is young enough that it has branches not far above your head, and it’s the middle of May, you will be treated to one of the most delicious odours to come from any tree flower, rivalled only by the odour of the blossoms of the native wild apple. Bees like flowering Tilias; the whole tree will be abuzz. The bees won’t sting you, as they are too busy!
At the other end of the tree “intelligence” scale are the moronic soft or silver maples. The species has a tendency to grow out limbs right over a house’s roof. The wood is brittle and branches will snap off and destroy a roof if chain-saw surgery isn’t done as a preventive measure. There are two miserably contorted specimens right out in front of my apartment house. I can imagine their dim thoughts as they grew towards the power lines:
“Duh — they’re just wires! Let’s just engulf those wires — what could possibly go wrong?” What eventually went wrong was that the power company chain-saw crew came along and butchered those poor feckless trees. Now they are the tree equivalent of cripples. I wish someone would cut them down and plant lindens in their place!