With summer in full swing, it’s a pleasure to head outdoors for recreation and leisure. Our parks and playgrounds, greenspaces along the Mystic Lakes, Mystic River and Wrights Pond, as well as our own backyards and neighborhoods, are some of our favorite spots to congregate or to relax in solitude on hot summer days.
A common feature of all of these locations is the presence of trees, especially shade trees. The term “shade trees” generally refers to medium to large size deciduous trees (which lose their leaves in winter). Shade trees are distinguished from evergreen trees and from “ornamental” trees, which are generally smaller, spring-flowering trees like cherry, crabapple and dogwood. Shade trees do just what you would expect, providing welcome shade throughout summer. Personally, my definition of a shade tree is one that I want to park my chair and sit under, or better yet, spread out a blanket and lie under, on a really hot and sunny summer’s day.
Littleleaf linden (‘Tilia cordata’) is an excellent shade tree that is common throughout Medford as street trees and in many of our parks, playgrounds and on some school grounds. Linden leaves are small, 2 to 3” long and wide, heart shaped, with finely-toothed edges, dark glossy green above, with the underside of the leaf a paler blue-green with orangey-tan tufts of hairs at the base. Small yellowish, fragrant flowers appear in late June to early July. Flowers of most of our lindens have passed, but have given way to their “fruits”, which are tiny, grayish, fuzzy nutlets, arranged in clusters. Also present on lindens now are lighter green, decorative leaf-like features called bracts, which are often mistaken for leaves but are part of the flower structure. In the fall, the bracts act like propellers to carry and disperse the clusters of seeds away from the parent tree. Pretty clever!
The pair of Littleleaf lindens in the photo provide cooling shade at Capen Park. Look for more lindens scattered throughout our neighborhoods, including along Charnwood, Chester and Benham, two at the intersection of Auburn and Prescott, and a handsome cluster of six by the playground at the Brooks School on the Auburn St side.
– Submitted by Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden