Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the small aluminium discs, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.

Tilia tomentosa
or Tilia heterophylla 'Petiolaris'
Silver pendant lime

Tag 31
54 deg 34.977N
5 deg 56.178W

The Belfast Botanic Gardens has a fine specimen of this less usual lime variety. You will find it just to your right as you enter the gardens through the Stranmillis Road gate. T. 'Petiolaris' flowers about a month later than the common lime (Tilia x europea) and is distinctive with dark glossy leaves which have a silvery underside. The leaf stalks are longer than in other limes. The flowers are are highly scented and are also distinctive, the cream petals being longer than the stamens (compare with common lime in photo bottom right). This lime is not susceptible to the aphid problems of the common lime, but is not for the small garden as it can reach over 30 m. in height.

Its taxonomic status seems to have had a confused history. Early books treat it as a distinct species, Tilia petiolaris (eg. RHS Dictionary of Gardening), whereas others (eg The Trees of Britain and Europe, Mitchell and Wilkinson) as a variety, possibly of garden origin, of Tilia tomentosa. The 2007-2008 RHS Plant Finder, an authority on horticultural nomenclature, treats it as a variety of Tilia heterophylla. However 'The Plant List' now an international authority on plant names asserts in 2019 that the correct name is Tilia tomentosa, which we will follow here.

Tilia heterophylla 'Petiolaris' in Belfast Botanic Gardens Tilia heterophylla 'Petiolaris' flowers

Tilia tomentosa in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Flowers of Tilia tomentosa

Tilia heterophylla 'Petiolaris' flower Tilia x europea flower detail

Tilia tomentosa flower detail

Tilia x europea flower detail

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2007. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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