Most limes are medium to large deciduous trees with cordate (heart shaped) leaves arranged alternately on the stem. They are often planted as avenues or in towns and cities for shade.
Most species tolerate heavy pruning and pollarded trees are a common sight. Some species are well known for the sticky 'honeydew' produced by aphids feeding on lime sap during the summer. Their flowers are popular with bees and it is worth visiting Lime Avenue to listen to their low drone through the summer months.
2000 year old small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata)
Lying in the heart of Silk Wood, this ancient lime clump is one of Westonbirt’s most remarkable features. This large thicket of lime stems is a relic of an earlier age when the woodland was intensively managed to provide wood for fuel and other domestic use.
The regular cutting of trees back to ground level is known as coppicing and was a well established practice as far back as Anglo-Saxon times. Over hundreds of years of repeated cutting, the stump (or stool, as it is known) gradually spreads outwards in a ring until it reaches the proportions of this one. Despite its modest height, we know that all the stems are part of one enormous plant that has been estimated to be over 2,000 years old!
Oliver’s lime, Tilia oliveri
A large tree from central China, we have the UK champion in The Old Arboretum. It was first discovered and described by Augustine Henry in 1888 before being introduced by Ernest Wilson in 1900. The outstanding feature is the delicate leaf with a wonderful silvery underside.
Weeping silver lime, Tilia tomentosa ‘Petiolaris’
Our best specimen of this magnificent tree grows on the south side of Willesley Drive. This particular plant is probably one of the original 1875 plantings and the graft line is visible just above head height. Like Tilia oliveri it has a silvery back to the leaf. Although irresistible to bees, the flowers have a narcotic affect on them, making this species unpopular with bee-keepers.
This medium-sized tree is often identified by its remarkable flaking bark. Our best specimen is well hidden in between Mitchell and Main Drives.
This is one of the smallest limes, rarely exceeding the size of a small tree. One of the best examples in the country can be seen on Pool Avenue close to the junction with Morley Ride. The species was introduced from Japan in 1930.
Mongolian lime, Tilia mongolica
One of the most distinctive of all the limes, this small to medium-sized tree has toothed leaves quite unlike other species. It makes a great choice for anyone looking for a lime for a modest-sized garden.