" The inner bark can be made into fibres, baskets, and "In
Sweden, the inner bark, seperated by maceration so as to form a kind of
flax, has been employed to make fishing-nets". So if your Swede
immigrants were fishermen this might be your explanation right there."
"Relatives from Lithuanian have mentioned chewing on them, as
kids. And lime-blossom honey is quite prized. By the way in modern
American folk-magic practice the linden is considered a
protective tree, with branches hung over the door for this purpose.
Laima palaimink, Kovas"
Two small things I've found to add:
1)Basketry was (in some cases) used to make bee hives in proximity to
2) The *Bass*wood terminology comes from the the old English term for
the US version of Lindens; *Bast*-wood':
"Centuries ago, the fibrous bark from lime was used for the "bass" or
"bast" in rope making.
"An old name for lime was "linden".
Small-leaved lime was probably far more common here in prehistoric
times. Selective felling by man caused its decline. It has always been
used for forestry, principally for coppicing as it produces long,
3) "A permanent system of forest cultivation called
coppice-with-standards evolved in the British Isles over the past
thousand years, which provided a large range of products-from
construction timber to fencing and furniture parts to fruits, nuts,
honey, and wild game-while maintaining continuous forest cover.
"Coppice" is the practice of cutting trees to the ground purposely to
stimulate resprouting. The word also refers to the regrowth itself.
"Standards" are the trees selected (often planted) to grow into large
The continuous cutting of small blocks of coppice creates a mosaic of
environments that offers much more diverse habitat for game animals and
birds than the native forest itself. These "fells," or management
blocks-usually no more than an acre in size- also provide patches
of higher light intensity within the forest, which in turn stimulate a
tremendous profusion of flowering and fruiting shrubs and wildflowers.
Pollarding is similar to coppicing in that the trees are regularly cut
back in order to rejuvenate the tops so that small diameter fuelwood
can be harvested. However, pollarded trees are cut not at the ground,
but about 2m (6 feet) above the ground. This practice preserved the
basic tree form and also prevented animals from browsing the tender new
Unlike most coniferous trees, many deciduous hardwoods will resprout
vigorously from the stump when cut. Although some of the roots die back
when the top is cut, much of the original root mass of the tree
survives. From reserves of energy in the roots, the tree regrows very
rapidly, often sprouting 10-30 new stems, which can grow 1-5 meters
(4-15 feet) in a single season. Traditionally, most woodcutting was
done during the autumn and winter, after the agricultural harvest, when
attention could be put on less critical chores. Besides helping to
balance the annual cycle of domestic labor, this practice had many
other advantages. Wood harvested while the trees are dormant is lower
in moisture and makes both longer-lasting timber and better fuel.
Winter cutting also conserved the tree's energy by matching the natural
cycle of vegetative regeneration. Temperate zone root energy reserves
are highest in the dark months of the year as the trees adapt to cold
weather by shedding their leaves and preparing for new growth in
The repeated cutting had an additional benefit that is not immediately
obvious: it prolonged the life of the trees, often two, three, or four,
times their "natural" span. There are ash "stools" (the stumps from
which regrowth occurs) in England over a thousand years old still
[!!! Kalm's trees could possibly have been older than thought]
The primary design of coppice-with-standards, however, is to support
the yield of many forest products from a small area.
As each fell of mature woodland was harvested, the regrowth would be
graded by the woodsmen. Superior stems would be selected as "tellers,"
the young precursors to "standards." In addition to tellers there were
two classes of standards. Older yet were the "veterans," and in the
French system, the "oldbark" were yet more venerable. Inferior trees,
whether slower growing, prone to disease, or misshapen, would be
coppiced for poles, wattle (smaller pieces for weaving into a kind of
movable fencing for livestock), and fuelwood. The tops and branches
were sometimes fed to cattle as fodder. In modern management of
coppice-with-standards, young tellers are often planted from selected
stock after the harvest of mature overwood.
Fells were harvested about every six to seven years, the irregularity
permitting adaptation to a variable climate: a cold summer or a dry
year with poor growth could be accommodated in the system. The thinning
of the tellers and of the subsequent classes of standards was done with
a mind to maintaining an open canopy where about half the light came
directly from the sun and the other half indirectly from the sky. The
overstory was thinned to maintain optimal growth conditions both for
the remaining trees and for the underwood. The regular harvest of young
trees and of coppice kept timber and wood processing labor to a
minimum, a factor of critical importance to a society lacking power
tools or fossil fuels. Timbers were shaped with adze and froe, by hand.
Firewood and poles were cut with an axe.
The splitting of large logs, whether for firewood or fencing, was a
custom adopted by Americans in response to the conditions of their
forests: vast numbers of huge trees covered the continent when the
first settlers moved westward. In preindustrial Europe, the notion of
growing a tree to a great size, only to chop it into small pieces, was
seen as wasteful of human energy. Poles and timbers were grown to the
size needed, and no more, while fire-wood was cut at just the dimension
required for stoves and fireplaces.
Overstory and underwood were usually of different species. This made
the woodland ecologically resilient, as canopy and ground cover
exploited not only different soil layers and nutrients, but grew at
different seasons. The coppice and groundcovers did about two-thirds of
their photosynthesis for the year before the overstory came into leaf.
Oak, ash, beech, and elm were commonly the standards, while hazel,
alder, lime (linden, Tilia cordata), willow, and hornbeam were often
grown in the understory. Hazel yielded not only edible nuts, but fodder
from the young shoots, and like willow, made excellent basketry, while
lime leaves were eaten and the trees usually allowed to flower before
harvesting, to provide a flavored honey crop. Lime was also made into
greenwood furniture, while hornbeam went for fuel, and alder (a
nitrogen-fixer) bolstered soil fertility. Many of these same species
have additional medicinal or craft use, providing dyes, seeds, and
flowers of value.
The understory was made more complex by the retention or cultivation of
many fruiting shrubs such as crab apple, rowan, service tree, wild
cherry, and roses. Wide pathways through the woods made access to the
forest easier, and gave a place for much of the woodcraft to take
They also introduced more edge that increased the available light and
enhanced the productivity of the woodland. After each felling there
would be an explosion of wildflowers the following spring, while
greenwood growth increased the forage for wild game, an important meat
Coppice-with-standards, and strict laws requiring the retention of at
least 8-20 large trees per acre, ensured the presence of all age
classes of major timber trees in a small area, while enormously
increasing the diversity and productivity of the forest.
This article by guest author Peter Bane was originally published in The