The small leaved lime, or Tilia cordata, is a magnificent tree when mature – both tall and spreading, with limbs curtsying down to greet the understorey in a most graceful manner,  (so different from the gaunt habit of its more common namesake, the European Lime). In early summer they display masses of sweetly fragrant blossom, and in autumn their leaves turn a beautiful buttery yellow before the fall.

Tilia cordata (still commonly known as the Linden in other cultures, and remembered in the song “Linden Lea” on this side of the English Channel) also has a fascinating cultural history attached to it. In central Europe, linden flowers have been used in traditional herbal medicine, as an anti-inflammatory for a number of respiratory problems. The blossom also makes a fragrant tea, and honey too! In England small leaved lime was widely coppiced and used as fuel, hop-poles, bean sticks, cups, ladles, bowls and even morris dancing sticks. In the middle ages large areas were managed as coppice in order to provide a constant supply of the wood, so the tree is now regarded as a good indicator of “ancient woodland”, sadly very uncommon now. In Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, there is a single vast Tilia cordata stool, which looks like a 11m diameter circle of separate multi-stemmed trees, and has been estimated by the Forestry Commission to be over 2,000 years old. It has reached that age and that size through centuries of repeated cutting to ground level.

In the folklore of the Germanic peoples, the Linden was regarded as having sacred powers, and was especially associated with fertility. Leafy linden branches were teasingly used by May-pole dancers as “fertility wands” as they brushed past each other. The dense timber was ideal for wood carving, and was often used for altar screens, for images of the Virgin Mary and other saints; hence the term for linden wood: lignum sacrum – sacred wood.

No problem catching the hoar frost this morning, still -5c at 11.00am