COMMON LIME, (Tilia x europaea) 

A hybrid between small-leaved and large-leaved lime, common lime has characteristics of both species. The bark is pale grey-brown and irregularly ridged, with characteristic large burrs and leaf shoots at the base of the tree. Twigs are slender and brown, although they become red in the sun. 


Leaf buds are red, with one small scale and one large scale, resembling a boxing glove, and they form on long leaf stalks. 

The leaves are dark green, heart-shaped and flimsy, measuring 6–10cm in length. They are lopsided and lobed at the base.  Leaves are more or less hairless, except for creamy-buff or white hairs on the underside of the leaf between the joints of the veins. In autumn, leaves fade to a dull yellow before they fall. 


Limes are hermaphrodite, meaning both the male and female reproductive parts are contained within one flower. Flowers are white-yellow with five petals and hang in clusters of 2–5 


Once pollinated by insects, the flowers develop into round-oval, slightly ribbed fruits, with a pointed tip. 

Where to find common lime 

Common lime is native to much of Europe, including the UK, and occurs in the wild in scattered areas wherever the two parent species are located. It is more common in urban areas and parks. 

Lime leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of many moth species, including the lime hawk, peppered, vapourer, triangle and scarce hook-tip moths. They 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 flowers provide nectar and pollen for insects, particularly bees. 
Long-lived trees provide dead wood for wood-boring beetles, and nesting holes for birds. 

Common limes are often host to heavy aphid populations which drip sticky honeydew deposits on anything lying underneath the trees. 

Uses of common lime 

Lime wood is soft and light, white-yellow and finely textured. It is easy to work and often used in wood turning, carving and furniture making. Lime bark was traditionally used to make rope, and lime flowers were considered a valuable source of food for honey bees. The wood does not warp and is still used today to make sounding boards and piano keys. Limes can be coppiced and used for fuel, hop-poles, bean sticks, cups, ladles, bowls and even Morris-dancing sticks. The most common use of common lime is as an ornamental tree.