Tree Profile: Lime (Tilia cordata)


A tree found throughout much of Europe, it used to dominate ancient woodlands in the UK alongside Oaks. Now its range has shrunk slightly, but it still can be found in woodlands across the British Isles and it is an important tree to know about.

The leaves are light green when young, and when mature are a dark green colour. Prominent veins are found on the underside of the leaf along with small hairs at the base of the vein. The leaves are roughly heart shaped with small teeth on the edge.IMG_6747.JPG

It has numerous uses to bushcrafters. In early spring the young supple leaves are perfectly edible. Pick them while they are light green in colour, as this means the cellulose hasn’t built up, so the leaf won’t be bitter or too chewy. The flowers are also edible, but they also have a host of medicinal properties, including but not limited to, being a diuretic and having sedative and soothing properties. The sap can also be tapped, similar to birch or maple trees, but this is questionable due to the potential harm caused to the tree.

The most important use is turning the inner bark into very strong cordage. There is a slight process involved, called retting the bark. First a branch or trunk is felled, the bark is then cut in a straight line down the length of the branch. The bark is then removed from the trunk very carefully, trying to retain its structural integrity, and keep it a whole piece. The bark is then soaked until the inner begins to shed from the outer. The inner bark can then be removed, washed, dried and then twisted into cord.

Simple Cordage:

The bark can be fashioned into rough cordage without all the soaking. This method works much better when the sap is flowing, as the bark parts from the branch much easier, so this technique works well in spring and summer. The branch can be cut easily with a small knife by making several incisions around the base of the branch, snapping the branch will then cause it to break where you want it to, in a beaver chew fashion.IMG_6753.JPG

The bark must be stripped from the branch, then cut into even width pieces. A very gentle cut is made on the outer bark, be careful not to cut too deep as you will sever your fibres. Be sure to cut across the entire width of outer bark so that it peels back evenly.IMG_6756

Bend the cut section across the top of your index finger so that the outer bark begins to separate from the inner bark. Gently peel the outer bark away from the inner.IMG_6761.JPG

Once you have some good lengths of inner bark you can begin twisting the cordage, this is done in the traditional two-ply reverse wrap method. The twisting will be difficult, as the bark has not been soaked but it does create very strong cordage and would work in a pinch for anything you need string for.IMG_6763.JPG

The lime tree is a very useful one to know about, whether its being used in a salad or helping to tie up your lean too. As they say, the more you know the less you carry, and this is definitely one of my top 10 trees to know.

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