Herb: White Basswood

Latin name: Tilia heterophylla

Synonyms: Tilia americana heterophylla

Family: Tiliaceae (Linden Family)

Medicinal use of White Basswood:

A tea made from the flowers is antispasmodic, diaphoretic and sedative. A decoction of the inner bark has been used in the treatment of dysentery. A decoction of the bark, mixed with cornmeal, has been used as a poultice in the treatment of boils. A decoction of the inner bark and twigs has been used during pregnancy to treat heartburn, weak stomach and weak bowels.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Buffs and slopes of ravines and by streams. Found in rich woods in the Appalachians.

Edible parts of White Basswood:

Young leaves - raw. A nice mild flavour with a slightly mucilaginous texture. They go well in a mixed salad, though I have found that on their own they tend to leave a slightly rough feeling in the throat. The dried flowers make a refreshing tea substitute. A very good chocolate substitute is made from a paste of the ground fruits and flowers. Trials on marketing the product failed because the paste decomposes readily.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre is obtained from the tough inner bark It can be made into diverse items such as rope, mats, shoes and coarse cloth. Wood - soft, light, weak, straight grained. It weighs 26lb per cubic foot. Widely used in interior finishing, cabinet making, woodenware, paper making and for piano keyboards.

Propagation of White Basswood:

Seed - much of the seed produced in Britain is not viable, cut a few seedcases open to see if there is a seed inside. If possible, obtain fresh seed that is ripe but has not as yet developed a hard seed coat and sow it immediately in a cold frame. It may germinate in the following spring though it could take 18 months. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate. It has a hard seed coat, embryo dormancy and a hard coat on the pericarp. All these factors mean that the seed may take up to 8 years to germinate. One way of shortening this time is to stratify the seed for 5 months at high temperatures (10C at night, up to 30C by day) and then 5 months cold stratification. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Layering in spring just before the leaves unfurl. Takes 1 - 3 years. Suckers, when formed, can be removed with as much root as possible during the dormant season and replanted immediately.

Cultivation of the herb:

Buffs and slopes of ravines and by streams. Found in rich woods in the Appalachians.

Known hazards of Tilia heterophylla:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.