Basswood, also referred to as linden or bee tree, is a large tree, reaching heights of 60-90 feet. The trunk is clear (free of hanging branches), cylindrical, and up to two feet in diameter. The crown is broadly rounded and the tree is typically nicely shaped and therefore planted as a shade tree in many places. Basswood grows best in mesic forests on finer soils, although it also grows on the coarser, sandier soils of the Lake Michigan sand dunes in Illinois, for example, and infrequently even on exposed ridges in the far northern part of its range in Canada. It is a component of mesic upland forests in Illinois.
It is a prolific root sprouter when the main trunk is cut, damaged, or destroyed by fire. It is quite common to see numerous root sprouts at the stump. Whereas basswood is somewhat shade tolerant, it is less so than sugar maple, with which it occurs in mesic upland forests. Basswood is sensitive to fire, but it is one of the least susceptible of the eastern hardwoods to late spring frosts.
Basswood leaves contribute significantly to the nutritional quality of the forest soils. They contain high levels of important mineral nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients are not withdrawn from the leaves at leaf fall, so they are released to the soil when the leaves decompose, becoming available to the vegetation once again.
Tilia americana wood is light-weight and extremely close grained. It is used for furniture, children's toys, and paper pulp. It is a favorite choice for hand carving because it is relatively soft and easy to work with. The long fibers of the inner bark were utilized by Native Americans to make strong, tangle-free rope. These fibers have also been used to weave baskets and mats. A very high quality honey is made from Basswood flower nectar, and in some parts of its range, the basswood is referred to as the bee tree. Because of its beautiful shape and large leaves, basswood is commonly planted as an ornamental.