This is the third in a series of Nature Notes columns on Frederick County’s trees. Discover Frederick’s diverse array of trees on a self-guided walking tour. To see all of the trees, it should take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Currently there are 27 trees; a list and a map are available at visitFrederick.org.
American basswood (Tilia Americana)
Native basswoods, aka linden trees, aka lime trees (in England, which can be very confusing for tourists) are also nicknamed “bee trees,” because when they are covered with their distinctive blooms in the spring, they are so attractive to pollinators they can be heard buzzing from a hundred yards away. If you can’t hear the bees, you can smell the linden tree flowers’ honey-lemon scent from close to a mile away.
Once you take note of their unusual and interesting blooms, you will learn to recognize all the varieties of linden trees easily, as they retain remnants of these blooms throughout the season, and they can be seen from far away once you know what you are looking for.
Cousins of the American basswood, little-leaf linden trees are very common street trees, because they are quite happy in the sidewalk and parking lot wells. Costco here in Frederick has used little-leaf trees as its primary parking lot tree; there are many on Key Parkway; and they have also been spotted near Kohl’s.
Weeping willow (Salix babylonica)
Although weeping willow is likely a hybrid of the babylonica species, it is typically referred to by this species name. These iconic trees are native to China, and they were originally spread to the Western world via the Silk Road in the 18th century.
Weeping willows grow very fast, but are not very long-lived, rarely living past their 75th birthday, which is quite young for most tree species. Like all willows, weeping willow bark contains salicylic acid, which is the precursor to aspirin, and has been used for centuries to relieve fevers and pain. Our own North American white willow (Salix alba) contains much more of the active substance, but weeping willow works in a pinch. However, don’t start chewing off the bark and trying this at home, as splinters in the gums can be quite unpleasant.