The Common Lime is the tallest broad-leaved tree in Britain, and can grow to a height of 15–50 m (49–164 ft) tall. It is a natural hybrid between the small-leaved (Tilia cordata) and the large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos), that populated old growth European forests. It has heart-shaped leaves, 5-10 cm long, with a pointed tip. They are edged with small teeth, smooth and dark green on the upper side, with tufts of white hairs at the junctions of the veins on the underside. Lime leaves often have ‘blisters’ on the upper surface, caused by sap-sucking insects, often aphids. It is relatively tolerant of soil type, but prefers moist, well-drained, slightly alkaline, loamy soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. The tree tolerates strong winds, but need protection from winds directly from the sea. It is a known to attract wildlife and is a very valuable bee plant, with fragrant flowers with five petals and a leafy yellow-green subtending bract that grow in clusters of 4-10. The tree flowers in early summer. In October, the round, downy and shallowly ribbed fruits are dropped and dispersed on the wind with the help of the green bract.
Although some lime species are native the the British isles and have been so for thousands of years, most limes were imported from the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries. Lime trees can live for 500 years, and some live far longer than that. A lime tree in Nuremberg was dated back 900 years in 1900, and a Gloucestershire lime tree that grows in Westonbirt Arboretum is thought to be at least 2000 years old. In comparison, the Common Lime trees in the Pavilion Gardens are youngsters with a long life ahead of them; they were all planted in 1970. It is quite reasonable to assume that these handsome trees will still delight visitors in the mid-25th century. While we wait for them to mature to this great age, we hope that you will enjoy their gentle shade on hot summer days.