Common Name – Lime Tree
Irish Name – crann lioma
Latin Name – tilia
Common lime is native to much of Europe and occurs in the wild in scattered areas wherever the two parent species are located. It is more common in urban areas and parks.
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. Look out for their heart-shaped leaves which have white-cream hairs in the base of the vein on the underside. They are identified in winter by their red twigs which are hairy.
The leaf buds are red-pink, with one small scale and one large scale, resembling a boxing glove, and they form on long leaf stalks. 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.
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
Limes have long been associated with fertility. In France and Switzerland, limes are a symbol of liberty, and the trees were planted to commemorate battles.