Category Archives: Foraging

This category includes all posts that are foraging for free food activities related. This also includes Wild food identification and harvesting. Therefore, this category does not include posts relating to bushcraft, wildlife, or anything else.

Lime or Linden Tree Flowers – Tilia x europea

As something I’ve been aware of for some time, and looking out for Linden tree (Lime) flowers in the local area; I was pleased to find a big, old Linden tree not far from where I live. And it was positively overloaded with flowers.

Just for clarification, with these trees the name “Lime tree” and “Linden tree” are interchangeable. They are not the tree which bears the lime fruit. Also, I’ve titled this Tilia x europia (common Lime) because that’s the tree I found. It’s equally applicable to Tilia platyphyllos (Large-leaved Lime) and Tilia cordata (Small-leaved, Lime).

The flowers are usually within reaching distance anyway (unless the lower branches have been trimmed), but as an added bonus, this tree was on a slope too, so a lot of branches were at waist height, for easy picking.

Tilia x europea – Common Lime (Linden)

Identification

  • Common Lime is a deciduous, broadleaf tree, native to the UK and quite common.
  • The bark is pale grey/brown and has irregular ridges.
  • It is quite common to find multiple shoots growing out from the base of the tree.
  • Twigs are hairy and brown, but can turn reddish when in the sun.
  • Leaf buds are red with two scales; one small and one large. The buds look a little like a boxing glove.
  • The leaves are dark green and heart shaped, usually six to ten centimetres. The base of the leaf is asymmetrical and the underside has tufts of small white hairs at vein axils.
  • The flowers are white-yellow, five petals, hang in clusters of two to five, hang from a bract, and have both male and female reproductive parts.

Uses

So why am I going on about these Linden tree flowers? Well, in the past, Linden Flowers have been used as a herbal remedy for all kinds of ailments, including high blood pressure, migraine, headaches, digestive complaints, colds, flu, insomnia, liver and gallbladder disease, itchy skin, joint pains and anxiety.

Apparently, during the war, Linden was used to make a soothing, relaxing tea. You can imagine why people might have wanted it then!

Personally, I have been known to suffer from mild anxiety, insomnia (of a kind) and joint pains, so I’ll be giving it a try (after doing my own research).

As I understand it, it also makes a nice drink, and as an occasional thing isn’t likely to do any harm

Warning

As always, you absolutely must do your own research before diving into believing the first thing you read online, and also check with your doctor too. Apparently some people have reported allergies to Linden, but apart from that Linden tea is pretty harmless stuff.

What to do with Linden tree flowers

Make sure that you pick the pale green bract that comes with the flowers – you’ll need it all. Also, pick responsibly. Whilst it’s unlikely that you could over-harvest a tree, if you need a lot, make sure you take small amounts from several trees.

linden tree flower

Next step – either dry it for future use (in the sun on a sheet, in your oven, or in your electric dehydrator), or make a tea from it immediately.

Tea

Put a few handfuls of flowers in a pan with one to two litres of water.

Bring to the boil, cover and remove from the heat, and leave it overnight.

Strain out the blossoms and keep the infusion in the fridge for up to three days. You can drink it cold, or reheat it. You can freeze the tea to keep it for longer, or make it into an elixir (thanks to the ladies at www.handmadeapothecary.co.uk for the idea) by adding 50% spiced rum to use as a cold remedy (take 50mls in hot water and go to bed to sweat it out).

Next steps

Coming soon – I plan to make my linden tree flower tea on video…

Structure and Parts of a Leaf

No seriously! It’s more complex than you might imagine, and having a common language really helps when talking about the parts of a leaf.

For the avoidance of doubt, leaf refers to both the flat type that you imagine, and the needles and scales found on some evergreens. This is not a complete reference, just the parts that I find most useful.

You’d better get comfortable, this is a long post…

Simple Parts of a Leaf

Parts of a leaf diagram

This is a simplified, generalisation. There are, of course, exceptions and variations. The leaf Blade, attaches to the stem of the plant with it’s Petiole. Quite often you will find a Stipule at the base of the petiole, which is like a miniature leaf arrangement. Within the leaf, there will be at least one strengthening midrib, and veins running from it. The leaf receives water and returns sugars through these.

Identification Categories

When it comes to identifying plants by their leaves, there are a number of areas to consider:

  1. The arrangement of the leaves on the stem.
  2. Simple vs Compound Leaves.
  3. Characteristics of the petiole.
  4. Veins.

1. Arrangement

The arrangement of the leaves on the stem can provide vital clues to the identification of a plant. Indeed, for some plants, it’s even in the name. For example, Opposite-leaved, Golden Saxifrage.

These are the main arrangements you may encounter:

  • Opposite – Two leaves from the same point at each point or node on the stem, growing in opposite directions.
  • Alternate – One leaf attached at each point or node on the stem, each successive leaf growing in opposite directions.
  • Basal – Arising from the base of the stem.
  • Cauline – Arising from the Aerial stem.
  • Whorled or Verticillate – Three or more leaves from the same point or node.
  • Rosulate – The leaves form a rosette.
  • Distichous – Leaves are attached in two rows. They can be either opposite or alternate in arrangement.

As a stem grows, leaves tend to grow in the optimum position for collecting light. This can result in leaves forming a helical pattern around the stem.

2. Simple vs Compound Leaves

So, a leaf is a leaf, right? Well, not exactly. There are simple leaves, and leaves which are made up of leaflets. In deciduous trees, for example, the part which detaches itself from the tree in Autumn (Fall) is a leaf. So in Oak trees, that’s a simple Oak leaf, whereas in Ash trees, it’s a compound leaf with multiple leaflets (see images below).

A simple leaf may be deeply lobed, but as long as gaps do not reach the midrib, it is still a simple leaf. Each leaflet of a compound leaf may have it’s own Petiolule (equivalent of a Petiole) and Stipule (Stipel).

Types of Compound Leaf

  • Palmately Compound – Leaflets radiate from the end of the Petiole, like the fingers of a hand e.g. Horse Chestnut
  • Pinnately Compound – Leaflets are arranged along the main or mid-vein.
    • Odd Pinnate – With a terminal leaflet e.g. Ash.
    • Even Pinnate – Without a terminal leaflet e.g. Mahogany.
  • Bipinnately Compound – The leaves are twice divided. The leaf has a main vein, and further secondary veins on which the leaflets are attached e.g. Silk Tree.
  • Trifoliate – A pinnate leaf with just three leaflets e.g. Clover.

3. Characteristics of the Petiole

Leaves with a stalk (petiole) are said to be petiolate. Those without a stalk, which join straight to the branch are said to be sessile.

Where the blade of a leaf partially surrounds the stem, it is said to be clasping or decurrent. Where the blade completely surrounds the stem they are called perfoliate.

The stipule, where present, is a leaf-like appendage on each side at the base of the petiole. Stipules may remain (such as on roses) or be shed as the leaf expands, leaving scars; Known as stipulations.

4. Veins

Veins, occasionally referred to as nerves, extend into the leaf via the petiole and transport nutrients and water between the leaf and the stem. They also play a mechanical role in supporting the leaf structure. Branching from the main vein are secondary veins, and there can be many more branchings, sometimes leading to a net-like structure.

Leaf Shape Terminology

 

Image Name Description
 Auriculate  Having ear-shaped appendages near the petiole e.g. Arum Maculatum
 Cordate  Heart-shaped, with the petiole or stem attached to the notch.
 Deltoid  Shaped like Greek letter Delta, triangular, stem attaches to side.
 Digitate  With finger-like lobes, similar to palmate.
 Elliptic  Oval, with a short or no point.
 Hastate  Spear-shaped: Pointed, with barbs, shaped like a spear point, with flaring pointed lobes at the base.
 Lanceolate  Long, wider in the middle, shaped like a lance tip.
 Linear  Long and very narrow like a blade of grass.
 Lobed  Being divided by clefts, may be pinnately lobed or palmately lobed.
 Obcordate  Heart-shaped, stem attaches at the tapering end.
 Oblique  Asymmetrical leaf base, with one side lower than the other.
 Oblong  Having an elongated form with slightly parallel sides, roughly rectangular.
 Obovate  Teardrop-shaped, stem attaches to the tapering end; reversed ovate.
 Ovate  Oval, egg-shaped, with a tapering point and the widest portion near the petiole.
 Palmate  Palm-shaped, i.e. with lobes or leaflets stemming from the leaf base.
 Perfiolate  With the leaf blade surrounding the stem such that the stem appears to pass through the leaf.

Leaf Edge Terminology

 

 Entire  Even; with a smooth margin; without toothing.
 Ciliate  Fringed with hairs.
 Crenate  Wavy-toothed; dentate with rounded teeth.
 Lobate  Indented, with the indentations not reaching the center.
 Serrate  Saw-toothed; with asymmetrical teeth pointing forward.
 Doubly-Serrate  Each tooth bearing smaller teeth.

 

Source: Wikipedia, Paul Kirtley at frontierbushcraft.com.