Common lime is a deciduous broadleaf tree that is native to the UK and parts of Europe. It is often used as an ornamental tree and can be seen planted along the side of roads, in large parks and gardens and is a common avenue tree. The seeds of the common lime are not very fertile meaning that it is rarely found in the wild in the UK. Despite the name, lime trees are not closely related to the citrus plant that produces the lime fruit. Common lime is the tallest broad-leaved tree in Britain and it originated as a hybrid between the large-leaved and small-leaved lime.
Mythology and Symbolism
Limes have long been associated with fertility. In France and Switzerland, limes are a symbol of liberty, and the trees were planted to celebrate different battles. During wartime, lime blossom was used to make a soothing tea. Lime trees can be processed in many ways, and have been used medicinally for centuries to remedy gastric ailments and ease hysteria symptoms.
Common lime is a hybrid between small-leaved and large-leaved lime, it has characteristics of both species. It often reaches 30m in height and over 40m in favourable conditions. Lime is easily identified in the summer months by its vigorous sprouting growth from the base of the tree and its lower branches drooping down often covering the stem completely when looking at the tree from a distance.
The bark is smooth and a pale grey-brown on young trees and irregularly ridged becoming more fissured as the tree matures. Twigs are slender and brown, although they become red in the sun. The fibres of the inner bark, known as ‘bast’ are strong and elastic when stripped and have been used in past times to make string and rope products.
Lime tree branches have been traditionally coppiced as fodder for cattle, which graze on the foliage to improve their milk. Lime flowers are considered a valuable source of food for honey bees and lime leaves are very attractive to aphids, providing a source of food for their predators, including hoverflies, ladybirds and many species of bird (bees also drink the aphid honeydew deposited on the leaves). The young leaves can also be eaten as a salad vegetable.
Lime dries fairly rapidly and reasonably well with only a slight tendency to distort.
Limited tests have indicated the general strength properties of lime to be similar to those of oak, but the principal uses for the wood are based more on its ability to resist splitting, together with its softness, rather than on general strength.
Lime wood is easy to work and is often used in wood-turning, carving and furniture making. The wood does not warp and is still used today to make sounding boards and piano keys. Ease of working and good acoustic properties also make lime wood popular for electric guitar and bass bodies and for wind instruments such as recorders. It is inclined to be woolly, and requires thin-edged, sharp tools in order to achieve a smooth finish. It takes nails, stains and polishes very adequately. Lime wood turns well, and carves extremely well.
Lime trees produce soft and easily worked timber, which has very little grain. There is no distinction in colour between the sapwood and heartwood, lime wood is pale yellowish-white when freshly cut, turning to pale brown when dried. It is a soft, compact wood, with a fine, uniform texture and a density of about 560 kg/m³ when dried.
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THE BOARDROOM AT LOGIE STEADING
Logie Estate, Logie, Forres, Moray, IV36 2QN
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