Dancing lime trees are a species of lime tree usually known as the common linden, or Tilia europaea. These large, long-lived trees are known as dancing or dance lime trees due to the fact that they were often the centerpieces of many European communities. The lindens were carefully trained and shaped to provide gathering and dancing areas, both under the tree and sometimes in the branches. The tree is rife with symbolism, from its heart-shaped leaves to its branching habits, but it is not related to the tree that produces citrus fruit.
Lime trees are slow-growing, large deciduous trees from the Malvacea family. There are around 30 cultivars, which vary according to leaf and canopy shape and size. The European lime, or dancing lime, has smaller, heart-shaped leaves than many other varieties. The leaves thickly cover the canopy of the tree, providing an attractive appearance and deep shade underneath the tree.
Dancing lime trees require only basic culture. Although slow-growing, they are extremely tolerant of adverse conditions, including pollutants, and can grow up to 100 feet tall. They prefer consistently moist, cool soil rich in organic matter, and will tolerate alkaline soils. Dancing lime trees should be planted in a location where they will receive a full day's worth of sunlight.
Pruning and Shaping
Young trees were often surrounded with a dance floor made from wood. As the tree grew, the dance floor would grow as well. In some cases, the floor would be built vertically as well as horizontally, extending from branch to branch. Illustrations show that some support structures extended all the way to the crown of the tree. Trees were pruned and trained as they grew to develop strong horizontal branches with wide angles that could support these structures.
Dance limes change dramatically with the seasons. Early European populations associated the tree with a way to measure the passing of time. The tree became sacred to many of the people. The heart-shaped leaves represented love, which made it popular with artists, including painters and poets, and amorous couples who often hid in the branches or deep shade the dense canopy provided. The fibers of the dance lime tree have been used to make rope, so the tree also represents strong bonds, as evidenced by the fact that it was often used as the gathering place for communities. Finally, the tree was believed to have healing properties. Tea was brewed from the flowers and bark, and the sap was used to make ointments and salve. Today, the tree is still used for medicinal purposes.
Dance lime trees can become infested with insect pests, according to information published by Colorado State University. In particular, aphids and cottony scale, both sucking insects, may plague the tree. Aphids will attach themselves to the leaves, while the scale will coat the twigs and branches. These insects will not cause enough damage to seriously harm such a sturdy tree, but they produce honeydew, which attracts ants fungal spores. Improper watering can cause distorted or wilting foliage. Poor foliage growth can also be caused by herbicides used to kill weeds growing within the root zone, which is extensive.