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The linden-tree Tilia spp. (Malvaceae)

The linden-tree Tilia spp. (Malvaceae)

This plant inspires feelings of protection, of a soft-smelling canopy, redolent of friendly feelings. The Greek myth of enduring marital love features Philemon and Baucis, immortalized, he into an oak, she into a linden-tree.
Why did mankind take this tree into such a deep affection? Is it its tall stature, with abundant foliage and an imposing canopy? Is it, accordingly, because it offers a shelter, whether from rain or sun? Or because it sheds little of a sinus-offensive pollen? Or, yet, because of the soothing tea afforded by its flowers, which many a person fancies as sleep-inducing?
Poems, fond likewise, were written about it. There are memorable lines by Coleridge and by Rimbaud. The latter wrote, On n'est pas sérieux, quand on a dix-sept ans /Et qu'on a des tilleuls verts sur la promenade. (One is not responsible at seventeen, when there are green linden-trees on the walkway) — the whole poem deals with discovering sex. 
Arguably the most famous poem on the tree, by the German writer Wilhelm Müller, Der Lindenbaum (1822), Franz Schubert turned into a lied, part of the Winterreise (Winter Journey) series (1827). 
The name of this tree has fluctuated over the ages, even more than is customary. During the 16th century, it was known in British English as the lime-tree or the line-tree. There is no botanical relation whatsoever with a lime-bearing citrus tree. As for the other spelling, it allowed Shakespeare a wordplay, of the kind he loved, in The Tempest, which defies literal staging, with its double meaning of a tree and a clothesline.
"Linden" was originally the adjective, "made from lime-wood" (equivalent to "wooden"). From the late 16th century, "linden" was also used as a noun, probably influenced by translations of German romance, as an adoption of Linden, the plural of German Linde.
Since we are discussing the lind/linden name in Germanic languages, I might as well point out that Carl Linnaeus, Swedish botanist extraordinary, owed his last name to that plant. How come? Two brothers of Linnaeus’ paternal grandmother chose to name themselves Tiliander when they, a farmer’s sons, studied to become clergymen. In that time, it was a habit for someone who aimed to become a clergyman to trade his patronym for a better-sounding one. Those two were inspired by a mighty linden tree (Latin: Tilia) on their father's farm in Vittaryd, Småland. So when Linnaeus’ father set out to study theology himself, he followed his uncles' example, taking the name of the linden tree but in its Swedish form "lind" - Linnaeus, in Latin. 
Is the lexical confusion by Shakespeare and his contemporaries the cause for alignments of linden-trees, as gave its name to Unterdenlinden (under the linden-trees), the Berlin Champs-Elysées? Albrecht Dürer did a watercolor of a linden-tree in 1494, the same year he used the same medium to depict an alignment of three linden-trees. Much later (1882), Claude Monet painted an urban alignment of linden-trees, overlooking the Seine River in Poissy — a painting now worth about two million dollars. 
Linden-trees have featured in urban settings since at least the 16th century. In France, such linden-planted alleys date to King Henri IV and his minister Sully. Their decision was based on an horticultural reason: linden-trees are amenable to pruning, a most French habit (it can also stand as an educational motto, for raising French children). 
Coming back to the 16th century and to even earlier times, linden-trees were favorites of painters, who did not yet have canvas for their support. They used wooden panels and lindenwood was one of the favorites of the Flemish Primitives. 
Last but not least, children are fond of the linden-tree helicoptering their seeds at a distance, with a pair of small leaves — bracts truly — performing like twirling parachutes when they detach and fall. As a lifelong child, I am still fascinated by them.