Basswood longevity   Adam Van Buskirk
  Mar 25, 2004 09:49 PST 

   The large leaf and small leaf european lindens (tilia cordata, tilia
platyphyllos and hybrids) have a reputation for considerable longevity on
the european continent, largely because of their ability to compensate for
breakage or decay by vigorous sprouting. Most of the well known examples in
europe are short trunked open grown examples, and I have seen many fine old
european lindens in parks in the eastern U.S. Washington park in Albany NY
contains a small leafed linden about 140 years old with a truly impressive
volume of wood, growing vigorously and in its prime.
    In light of this, I was wondering if anyone on the list has any
knowledge about the longevity of the american tilia species.   I have read
references to a fairly short life span for the species, and I have not heard
reports of any impressively aged specimens. Due to the close relation
between the american and european species, I have been wondering why our
Basswood is never mentioned in discussions of the oldest trees in the east.
Basswood longevity   Robert Leverett
  Mar 25, 2004 10:55 PST 


    While I cannot say why Tilia americana does not have a long
lifespan, I can say that I have found no exceptionally old trees in
Massachusetts. My sense is that they typically live to ages of less than
200 years. Maybe others on the list including Neil Pederson have
examples of older basswoods. The best source of longevity data for the
basswood may be Dr. Lee Frelich in Minnesota. He has done research in
some of the East's best basswood habitat for years. Lee, could you
enlighten us?

Basswood longevity   Lee E. Frelich
  Mar 25, 2004 12:25 PST 


Basswoods commonly live 100-150 years (above ground). A few might live for
200 years. Since they stump sprout, we don't know how long an individual
lives when defined by genetics, rather than an above ground stem. Probably
several centuries.

The above ground basswood tree usually dies from buckling of the stem. They
are poor at walling off fungi and they all get hollow, and as the tree's
rings get smaller with advanced age and a larger trunk, the size of the
hollow eventually catches up with growth and reaches 3/4 of the total
diameter, and the tree collapses at that point.

Basswood longevity    greentreedoctor
  Mar 25, 2004 14:27 PST 
...basswood...they all get hollow...reaches 3/4 of the total diameter...


FYI, we used to log solid, 3 ft+ American basswood in NE Maine back in the late '60's/early '70's. With the long, bitterly cold winters and low annual perception, I would assume that growth was relatively slow for a fast growing species (the growth rings were too inconspicuous to count).   But I agree that basswood, a very soft and light wood, more often hollows.

Re: Basswood longevity
  Mar 26, 2004 05:14 PST 

Adam, Bob, Lee,
I think you will find that those 15-foot diameter, centuries-old trees in Germany and Poland are not single-stemmed individuals that have survived for that long. Both T. platyphyllos and T. cordata can sprout from the roots or root collar. Niether species is decay-resistant. These giant hulks that are so famous are rotten, resprouting organisms. There is so much rot, regrowth, fusions, etc., that it is difficult to tell the history. This make it more mysterious, more romantic. This in turn leads to exaggeration and mythology.

Re: Basswood longevity   Lee E. Frelich
  Mar 26, 2004 05:45 PST 


It sounds like you found a special variety of basswood in Maine. Hopefully
some of them are still there. Your experience with basswoods shows why it
is important to have some old growth stands set aside throughout the
range of each species. You never know what local adaptations you will find.

Slow growing individuals (or many species) are often more decay resistant
than fast growing ones. I wonder if we could find some basswoods like the
ones you describe somewhere in northern MN, which would be even colder than

RE: Basswood longevity   Robert Leverett
  Mar 26, 2004 07:12 PST 

Lee and Randy:

The idea of local adaptations has always interested me. I'm especially
curious about the degree to which small local genetic adaptations
explain the growth characteristics that we find on our best tall tree
sites and how much of the extra height of the trees on the best sites
can be attributed to the adaptations. At least for white ash, I'm
inclined to believe that that local adaptations on the eastern side of
the Hoosac Mountain massif attributes a 10% - 15% difference to the
maximums there relative to the maximums 20 miles farther east.
Interestingly for the region of Massachusetts for which we have large
amounts of data, the same percentage range seems to apply to white pine.
My initial thoughts are that the difference may be a measure of the
degradation of the growing stock for one region relative to the other.
That's simplistic, I'm sure, but it may not be too far fetched.

RE: Basswood longevity   Dee & Neil Pederson
  Mar 27, 2004 06:25 PST 


The oldest white spruce have been found at treeline. There is
something to be said about local adaptation. Ed Schulman wrote about
this in Science magazine in the 1950s about the longevity of
bristlecone pine. He thought that the stressful growth conditions
helped extend longevity.

Tree-ring researches have not studied basswood too much for the
reasons discussed by Lee. They are often too hollow. Maybe there is a
northern range margin site in MN, ME etc. that could inform us of its