Sommer-Linde Blüten
Flowers, Music, Photograph, Text

Winterreise with Photos: What is the Lindenbaum?

The blooming flowers of the Sommer Linde, Tilia platyphyllos, at Heßplatz in Floridsdorf, Wien, Austria

The blooming flowers of the Sommer-Linde, Tilia platyphyllos, at Heßplatz in Floridsdorf, Wien, Austria

A close-up of the trunk of Sommer-Linde to show how the bark looks like.

A close-up of the trunk of Sommer-Linde to show how the bark looks like.

When I mention “Winterreise,”  those people who are familiar with the “Liederabend” know that it is a song cycle composed by Franz Schubert.  When I mentioned “Winterreise” when speaking in German with an Austrian before a lecture given by Reinhold Messner, the famous mountain climber, I was asked “to where.”  Most of those who know “Winterreise” as a collection of songs know only one song, “Der Lindenbaum.”

The word, “Lindenbaum” is translated to linden tree in English.   The linden tree belongs to the linden family in English, Gattung Linde in German,  and Tiliaceae in Latin.   In the US, the name of the tree belonging to the family of Tilia is “basswood.”  For example, Tilia americana is American basswood.  There are three other species of basswood in North America, Carolina, Florida, and White Basswood, which have different geographical distributions.  (1) In Europe, there are Tilia cordata (Winter-Linde),   Tilia platyphyllos   (Sommer-Linde), Tilia tomentosa (Silber-Linde), Tilia x euchlora  (Krim-Linde), and Tilia americana  (Americanische Linde) (American basswood) with the German names in parenthesis. (2)

Tiliaceae is not just limited to Europe and North America, but the linden tree family is also found in Asia. (3) In Japan, for example, there are two species of the linden trees found; one is Tilia japonica (シナノキ) and Tilia maximowicziana, オオバボダイジュ。

Tiliaceae belongs to flowering plants, Angiosperms.  The blooming time of these linden flowers depend on their locations, but in Vienna,  Sommer-Linde bloomed in May this year.  Since there are many trees with green leaves before the buds are formed and in turn bloom into flowers, which are distinct for each family of blooming trees,  in order to distinguish the linden tree from other trees with green leaves, I have added photos to show their characteristics.  The flowers of the linden tree are made into tea and, with the help of bees, into honey.   Therefore, there is a distinct fragrance associated with this tree.  The other known use of the linden is to use it as wood, for fine carvings, fine furniture, etc.

There is another German poem which has been set to music about the linden tree.  The poem is  titled “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft” written by Friedrich Rückert.  In the title the word “linden” is used as an adjective since lind in German means gentle, but the Linde is a noun, and refers to the linden tree, or “Lindenbaum.”  There are translations of this poem which translates the “Linde” into lime.  (4), (5) In fact there are two German-English dictionaries which give the translation of the word, “Linde” as lime. (6) (7) The confusion might have come from the association of the fragrance of linden blooms with those of the lime tree.   By showing the photos of the Lindenbaum blooming in Vienna, Austria, I hope I have set the record straight about the word, “Linde.”   Since the lime tree is a tropical tree, it would not survive in Austria.  When these linden trees bloom, the fragrance is strong enough to make Rückert to say, “Ich atmet einen linden Duft” where linden is a conjugated form of the adjective, “lind.”

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft

Friedrich Rückert

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft,
Im Zimmer stand
Ein Zweig der Linde,
Ein Angebinde.
Von lieber Hand.
Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft!

Wie lieblich ist der Lindenduft!
Das Lindenreis
Brachst du gelinde;
Ich atme leis
Im Duft der Linde
Der Liebe linden Duft


  1. Trees of North America, Golden Press, New York 1968
  2. Kosmos-Baumführer Europa, Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. Stuttgart 2011
  3. Montane Forest Plants of Japan, Tokai University Press, Tokyo 1985
  4. The Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder, Limelight Editions, New York 1984
  5. Debora Stein & Robert Spillman, Poetry into Song, Oxford University Press 1996
  6. Harold T. Betteridge revised, Cassell’s German-English English-German Dictionary, MacMillan Publishing Company 1978
  7. Langenscheidts Grosswörterbuch der Englischen und Deutschen Sprache “Der Kleine Muret-Sanders”  Langenscheidt KG, 1995
The heart shaped leaves of the Linden Tree in Vienna, Austria

The heart shaped leaves of the Linden Tree in Vienna, Austria


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