Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lime Blossom

In the hedgerow locally there is a large Lime tree, with a vast spread which at the moment is full of blossom.  During the warm weather particularly, the sweet smell is intoxicating and it hits the nostrils way before you reach the tree.  Heavenly.

 Also as you approach, there is a humming sound, a deep buzzing, and when close you realise that the whole tree is swarming with bees.  It is like this every day.   Not only are the bees making use of the nectar from the flowers, but are also feeding on the honey dew dropped onto the leaves by the aphids feeding on the tree sap.  This is what drips from the leaves and deposits the sticky mess often found under lime trees. 

The word Lime derives from an old English word Lynde or Lind which is why the tree is also known as the Linden tree.  And there are some really old Lime trees, the longest living recorded is 700 years, which is a lot of bees and a lot of honey.

There are stories of dead honey and bumble bees under Lime trees, with bees behaving in a 'drunken' way, unable to fly.  This has been found to be due to some of the sugars found in lime flowers being responsible for affecting the carbohydrate metabolism in bees so that their blood sugar levels fall which weakens their ability to move and fly.  This is particularly noticeable in very hot weather as the heat increases the sugar concentration.

Legends and folk-lore are plentiful - when Zeus and Hermes came to earth to check that mortals were behaving, they came in disguise and knocked on many doors, being refused shelter until finally they came to a couple who welcomed them.  As a reward for their generosity Zeus granted them their wish to remain together forever after death, and turned them into an Oak tree and a Lime tree so they could be side by side.  It is common to find that Oak and Lime grow close to each other.

The Celts belived that the Lime was sacred, and it was common that judicial cases were heard with the court sitting under a lime tree as it was said to inspire fairness and justice.  Lime trees were planted by royal decree along many roads to ensure that the harvest of its flowers was plentiful, as it was used a lot for its medicinal properties. 

What a tree!  I'm off to get my perfume fix!


  1. One of my absolute favourites too, that smell is sublime. There is a vast specimen at Kew Gardens, and I remember standing under it once when it was in blossom, really a died and gone to heaven moment! I would go back just for that one tree! xx

  2. You're so right it is heavenly! I've never been to Kew Gardens, and would love to go, there's a Kew at Castle Howard fairly locally, an Arboretum which is fabulous and makes me realise how little I know about trees. So many places I need to visit!

  3. our chinese tallow is like that when it blooms, the sweet scent and the deep buzzing of the bees. I enjoyed the folklore of the lime tree.


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