Lime can be found throughout Europe though there are two principle types: the summer or broad-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos) and the winter or small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata). The small-leaved lime is more common in more northern climes. Furthermore, there is a third hybrid variant of the two, known as the dutch or common lime (Tilia x europeae).
The difference between them is easiest to tell by the size of their leaves and the number of blooms on their umbels. The summer lime has larger leaves and only 3 blooms per umbel, the winter lime has 5 or more blooms or fruit on each umbel.
Traditionally lime trees were planted to mark important locations or gathering places such as village square. The shade of the lime tree was therefore often the location for communal activities such as dances or where court was held. Countless songs, declarations and customs testify to this. Many place names are also derived from the limes which stand there.
Lime trees grow individually or in groups in mixed woodland in lowlands as well as the lower levels of mountainous regions. Larger areas of lime woodland are less common, but can still be found in Eastern Europe or Russia. The summer lime was often planted in parks and along roads.
Winter lime trees can reach 25m to 30m high, summer limes up to 40m. A freestanding lime tree won’t grow quite so high but develops a broad crown. Lime trees can become several hundred years old – some trees are even thought to be 1000 years old.
Lime woods from all three types of lime have similar properties and are difficult to distinguish from one another, even under the microscope. Lime belongs to the class of ripe wood trees i.e. heart and sapwood have the same colour. The wood is white-yellowish, sometimes with a partial red or green colouring. The annual rings are only lightly visible - the longitudinal surface is therefore lightly striped or has a slight wavy grain.
Lime is light to medium-weight, soft and tough. It has a fine and dense structure but is not particularly strong. When dry the wood is stable and can be worked easily in all directions. It is therefore highly prized for turning and carving.
Lime wood is not particularly durable and is only used indoors. It yellows when exposed to the sun.
Lime wood can be easily worked by hand or machine. Surface finishing is also straightforward. The even fine-pored wood structure makes it ideally suited for staining, painting and varnishing. Surface blemishing can occur when in contact with iron.
Lime wood is available as round or sawn timber.
- Turning and carving
- centre ply
- model building