The intoxicating scent of lime trees

30 thoughts on “The intoxicating scent of lime trees”

  1. That is really interesting – about time we had some proper good stuff on FB instead of usual dross.
    Love to you and Rita.

  2. I have not heard of this tree being held sacred in medival Britain – what is the source for this please? In the Baltic this is the tree of the sun goddess Saule.

  3. Ric, you are right to question this. Referring back to my sources, I realise that I misread a passage on the tree in Germanic mythology, somehow erroneously transposing it to Britain. I’ve corrected the passage above to ensure that other readers aren’t misled before they get to the comments!

  4. From Francine Palant via Facebook:
    Great stuff, I love the scent of lime trees! by the way they are called Tilleuls in French as is the drink that is made with the dried flowers. it is a common “tisane” (herbal tea) along with camomille, you are supposed to drink it before going to bed for a restful night.

  5. Thank you Gerry, I am not criticising your article I am generally interested in the subject: “in Britain, villagers would assemble to celebrate and dance under a tilia tree, and to hold their judicial thing meetings” What is the source for this please. There are two distinct socio-cultural activities being described here, 1) dancing and celebrating and 2) judicial proceedings. I have never found that much for the lime in Britain under the category of folklore compared to Continental Europe. This tree seems to have undergone a dramatic decline in British prehistory which possibly explains its comparatively limited lore within the UK?

  6. Thanks for such an enlightening account. The lime trees were early here in London this year so this is a reminder already. I always mean to do a scent map to guide me on next year’s walks.

  7. To recap: “in Britain, villagers would assemble to celebrate and dance under a tilia tree, and to hold their judicial thing meetings”

    What is the source for this please?

    There are two distinct socio-cultural activities being described here:

    1) dancing and celebrating and

    2) judicial proceedings.

    Can you kindly let me know where this information was drawn from? There is so much material bobbing about in cyberspace which calls itself ‘factual reference’ and is in fact completely unsubstantiated and ultimately pure nonsense. I am sure ‘That’s How The Light Gets In’ will not fall into that unhallowed category.

    Many thanks,


  8. Ric, I already answered this in my first response to you above: there is no source because I misread/misremembered this passage from Wikipedia’s entry on Tilia:
    “Germanic mythology
    The Tilia was also a highly symbolic and hallowed tree to the Germanic peoples in their native pre-Christian Germanic mythology.
    Originally, local communities assembled not only to celebrate and dance under a Tilia tree, but to hold their judicial thing meetings there in order to restore justice and peace. It was believed that the tree would help unearth the truth. Thus the tree became associated with jurisprudence even after Christianization, such as in the case of the Gerichtslinde, and verdicts in rural Germany were frequently returned sub tilia (under the Tilia) until the Age of Enlightenment. “

    1. Hi Gerry..this is a very late comment ( 2 years late ) I woke this morning at 5 thinking about Linden trees…where are they and why do I never find any reference to them?..anyway I had to get up and google this as it was bugging me. I clicked on your link and found that the Linden tree was in fact the Lime and I had never realised this, in fact I was stood under a huge Lime tree the previous day fascinated by the bees. I much prefer the name Linden by the way. It was all interesting and really enjoyed the read, also when I looked at your other entries I was delighted to find loads of bits and pieces about people, causes,poets etc. which are close to my heart. I have been a great fan of Thea for years and seen her many times so was interested in hearing your comments..well I suppose she has to live. Really enjoyed reading your posts, thank you..from Pandora Picken.

      1. Thanks, Pandora. I’m pleased that you have enjoyed reading things I’ve written here. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  9. I always thought that the Linden Tree was associated with Sweden. After researching it, I am surprised to learn that the poem and music were originated in Germany. Additionally, I have seen no reference linking it to Sweden. Please enlighten me. Thanks!

  10. Judie – a quick search on Google reveals that ‘the linden tree is very popular in Sweden and has given rise to names like – Lind, Lindahl, Lindbeck, Lindberg, Lindberger, Lindblad, Lindblom.. (etc) []. One example is that of the naturalist Carolus Linnaeus, whose name derives ‘from archaic Swedish linn, meaning linden tree. In Sweden an ancient tree on the family property would be singled out as the “warden tree,” which in Norse tradition was a tree that exerted a protective power over the family home. In the case of their family, the warden tree was a linden. The family farm was known as Linnagård’ [].
    Hjälmseryd is home to Sweden’s largest linden tree – with a circumference of a full nine metres. The tree still stands after 500 years, despite suffering a lightning strike a few years ago. []

    A document, ‘Sacred Trees of Norway and Sweden’ [] quotes a Swedish poem by Gunnar Arnborg:

    Through the linden archways of glittering sun, falls rain
    for life of young and old.
    We shall seek our hold in hearth and home
    and for serenity gather strength.
    The travelled roads are far from our wish
    our linden-lined path beckons to safer land.
    By shore of lake and wood, by verdant fields of harvest
    we build our linden-rooted ark of peace.

    And finally … a childrens book, ‘My Nightingale is Singing’ by Astrid Lindgren (who wrote the Pippi Longstocking books) tells of a girl whose parents have died and who is forced to live in the poor house, where nothing is fun or beautiful. She can hardly stand it, until she hears the words: ‘My linden plays, my nightingale is singing…’

  11. Dear Gerry, Thank you for this lovely article. As a child I was fascinated by the name Linden for Lime Trees which I read about in a very old encyclopaedia belonging to my grandparents. Many years later, when I moved in to my 500 year old house over three years ago, there was a tree in the garden which I loved. I loved the way it moved and its sound. In recent months I have become interested in the decline of honey bees in the UK and have also become more interested in gardening. Upon research I decided I would like to have a Linden Tree which not only appeased the child of yesteryear but was also great for the honey bees. I was explaining this to my soon to be in-laws whilst they were visiting us at the weekend whilst we were walking round the garden. Moments later we passed the tree in the garden that I love and I wondered aloud what type of tree it was. Friends of theirs who were also visiting and who have a wider than average knowledge on trees, were called upon to answer the question. And yes, you’ve guessed it, “That’s a Lime.” they said. I am over the moon that I own a Linden tree and have loved it for over three years without even knowing what it was. I completely identify with all the poetry written about Linden trees. They do offer peace, love, truth, clarity and romance and I will be wishing under the Linden next summer when we hold our wedding reception in our garden.

    1. Thanks, Avril, for your lovely story. I’m glad you enjoyed the post; I hope your wedding celebration under the linden is a happy occasion.

  12. Your article on lime trees is fascinating. I’ve learnt a lot. I came searching for the sense of “l’odeur faible et énervante” of lime trees which I read about in a French story. Not knowing lime trees, other than the citrus kind, I’m trying to imagine a scent that’s énervante, and looking for the right English word to translate it. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Thanks, Trish. I’m pleased that you found what I’d written (cobbled together from various sources) useful. I liked your recent post about dark skies, dark swans and dark sculptures.

  13. Hello
    Thankyou for taking the time to post this research. I was drawn to your site after reading the book The Bees by Laline Paull. In it the drone that gets the Queen is called Sir Linden. This morning a woke if an urge to investigate Linden. Reading through the articale and comments I found so many questions answered – many that I had not before connected together.

    Blessings x

  14. Just read this article recently (July 15) Very interesting Gerry. I was looking up lime trees as I have been doing garden tours as a volunteer at an English Heritage property (Audley End in Essex) since April and wanted to check some info. We have a lot of lovely lime trees. As a retired German teacher, and ‘fan’ of Duerer I found your references to German folklore, culture etc very relevant! Many thanks.

    1. Thanks, Sue. I’m glad you found the post a worthwhile read. It’s funny how each year around this time, when the scent of limes really is intoxicating, the numbers reading this post suddenly increase!

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