Right in Our Front Yard: Under the Linden Trees

From the age of 9 to 18 I lived in a house that was located on Linden Avenue in the city of York, Pennsylvania. But if there were any linden trees on that street, I don’t remember them.

A8FRONTYARD
Published June 22, 2012 5:00 AM
3 min read

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A8FRONTYARDFrom the age of 9 to 18 I lived in a house that was located on Linden Avenue in the city of York, Pennsylvania. But if there were any linden trees on that street, I don’t remember them.


By Bill Lawyer

 

A8FRONTYARDFrom the age of 9 to 18 I lived in a house that was located on Linden Avenue in the city of York, Pennsylvania. But if there were any linden trees on that street, I don’t remember them.

 

It wasn’t until I was much older that I became aware of the most wonderful attribute of linden trees. Now, as an environmentalist, you might expect me to talk about how their leaves provide summer shade that reduces the need for air conditioning. Or I could talk about how the trees suck up huge quantities of stormwater, helping to reduce flooding.

 

Or I could tell how they absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Or how they provide habitats for wildlife (see photo of nest in linden tree at Rye Town Park).

 

Or, I could go on and on about all the wonderful products and medicines that can be made from the wood, inner bark, buds, and flowers. For more on that, check out the Tilia entry on Wikipedia.

 

Or, I could talk about how beautiful the streets of many European, Asian, and North American cities look when they are lined with bowers of linden trees. Berlin even

has a famous boulevard named Unter den Linden.

 

No, the most wonderful attribute, in my view, is the sweet, flavorful nectar that their flowers produce each June.

 

I first noticed this many years ago when I was jogging along Milton Road just north of the old cemetery. As I ducked to avoid hitting my head on a low-hanging tree branch, I got this whiff off a citrusy, delicate, sweet smell. I looked up and noticed that this tree, plus the one beyond it, and another across the street, were all filled with small, yellow flowers.

 

They all were attached to petal-like greenish-yellow bracts, which supposedly help launch the seed-like fruits after the flowers fall off.

 

Linden flowers look and smell nice and once they start to bloom they attract honeybees. In my years as director of the Greenburgh Nature Center, we would watch the bees flying to and from the linden trees like planes at LaGuardia at rush hour.

 

It was certain that the linden nectar helped contribute to the complex flavor of the honey that was harvested each fall. But I had never tasted pure linden honey until about ten years ago, when I first visited the honey stall at the Union Square Green Market in New York City.

 

The seller sold eight to ten different single flower varieties, but I had to go for the linden. I couldn’t even wait until I got home – I opened the two-pound jar and took a taste. Along with the normal, floral honey flavor there came a sort of zingy burst of taste bud excitement. I was hooked!

 

Fast forward ten years, and in 2011 beekeeper Ray DuBois started keeping two hives of bees in the backyard of the historic Knapp House. These gals (the worker bees are all females) have access not only to the above-mentioned trees on Milton Road, but they can easily get to the six fully mature linden trees located at Rye Town Park.

 

This year, perhaps due to the warm winter and spring, the lindens flowered earlier than usual. They were just about finished by the middle of the month. I’ve been in Europe a couple times in late June, and each time the lindens were in full flower.

 

If all goes well, the linden nectar collected by the Knapp House hives should be making a major contribution to the flavor of the honey harvested there this fall. And it all started thanks to someone planting those linden trees many years ago.

 

Oh, in case you were wondering, there are two linden trees growing on Rye’s Lynden Street. Right in someone’s front yard.

 

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