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Outdoors: Linden trees

An insect hovers close to a linden tree's blossoms.

Because so many art songs were composed about linden trees, several members of the voice faculty here at Interlochen have asked me if there are lindens in America.

Yes, there are American lindens, but we call them basswoods, and oddly, in England and Ireland, lindens are called lime trees.

But British lime trees do not produce citrus fruit and basswood have nothing to do with fish.

Lindens in Europe, with their heart-shaped leaves and heavenly fragrance, are revered as the “tree of lovers," so they often symbolized romance in operas and other vocal music.

In America, basswood (which is in the Linden genus, but with slightly larger heart-shaped leaves) was valued by the First Nations people because the fibers from this forest-edge species could be made into for rope, mats, fish nets and baskets.

But its value to bees is the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

In early summer, when the trees are in bloom, native bumblebees and night-flying moths visit them.

Domestic European honeybees find American lindens irresistible, especially in the late afternoon and evening when copious quantities of nectar are produced at the base of each blossom.

Honey produced from American linden nectar is my absolute favorite.

My beekeeping friends make sure to save some of their rich golden basswood honey for me every summer.

It is heavenly, and one taste is almost enough to make me burst into song.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.