Whittling, woodworking, carving; all hobbies that a tree guy can appreciate. Some people pick up driftwood and see birds, planes or other animals. Other people pick up fallen limbs while on a forest walk and envision garden ornaments, trellis supports or picture frames. There are those that go in search of specific wood to create masterpieces, everyday objects and other things in between. For those in the know, when looking for that specific sample of wood, a carver’s choice is often basswood.
This is one example of a carver’s delight that we came across on our 2012 Day of Service at Family Services Thames Valley a few weeks back. This basswood tree stands beside the FSTV pavilion, offering shade to passers-by and comfort for those that are in need of a little touch of nature. Hailing from the genus Tilia, basswoods can grow upwards of 20-40 metres (66-130 ft) high. While they are also known as linden trees by some, this sturdy tree is like gold for those seeking wood to transform.
And why is it that the basswood is so prized, you wonder? The trunk of this tree is often sturdy and straight, with a veritable umbrella of strong twigs and branches that create a heavy canopy of leaves. While those heart-shaped leaves might not offer much for a carver to grasp hold of, they just might offer a little inspiration when a knife is in hand and the first cut is ready to be made into this soft and easily worked wood. Another bonus for the delicate hands of a craftsman is that this wood does not splinter easily, so there is more time to focus on creation versus emergency doctor visits, for those moments when our hand and eye are not in coordination.
Not only carvers grow excited at the sight of a basswood tree though. While magnificent sculptures might emerge under a talented woodworker’s hands, a length of rope can materialize by those in the know and able to twist together a length of cordage from the bark. You might be surprised to learn that basswood is also edible and used in a variety of herbalist remedies. The leaf buds and young leaves are edible and the flowers of the linden tree make a pleasant tea. Herbalists use Tilia to help treat anxiety, insomnia, and headaches and long-term use has been shown to improve stress tolerance. Even children can benefit from the tea, as it induces sweating, thus reducing fevers.
Sadly, I don’t think much will come of this hollow basswood tree though. This is one of the trees that had to be cut down at Family Services. While its bark might have come in handy for some lucky rope weaver, and a chunk of that top section of the tree might have made its way into the back of someone’s truck for a whittling project or two, I fear it was destined for the chipper that day. Other specimens of this common tree will be around for a while to come though, as they readily germinate, live for anywhere from 100-200 years (there are even some lindens found that are dated closer to 1000 years old!) and can even sprout from a dead tree or stump. So I guess that means that we should all hail the mighty basswood tree today at CLC Tree Services and you should too!