American Basswood (Tilia americana) is known for the alluring scent and abundant nectar of its flowers, as well as its lightweight, odorless wood which lends itself to the production of food crates and boxes, musical instrument parts, yard sticks and cabinets. Equally distinctive are the nutlets that are borne on a stem bearing a persistent bract, or modified leaf, that aids in the wind dispersal of the fruit.
Most of the nutlets are eaten in the fall by chipmunks, mice, squirrels, porcupines and rabbits, but some persist until winter winds detach them from the tree and they fall to the ground. Basswood trees are not as dependent on seed germination as many other species due to their ability to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down or damaged (self-coppicing).
Bark, silhouettes and buds are the three keys to identifying trees in winter. Buds of different tree species are so distinctive they are an excellent identification tool. American Basswood, also known as American Linden, (Tilia americana) has plump, oval, asymmetrical reddish or green buds, which bear only one or two bud scales.
The bud that forms at the end of a branch is referred to as the terminal bud and those along the length of the branch are lateral buds. In the case of Basswood, the bud at the tip of the branch is a “false” terminal bud, because it is actually a lateral bud that has assumed the function of the terminal bud. When the growing tip of the branch withers or falls away, the closest lateral bud to the twig tip substitutes as a terminal bud.