Linden love (with locust)

Sunday I stopped at a branch library on the other side of town, one I don’t usually frequent. The outside temperature was in the 90s; as I opened the car door, the air was almost a living presence: thick with humidity and heavy with perfume. I was expecting the heat, but the perfume caught me by surprise. It was sweet and sticky, and I recognized it immediately: linden flowers. The library parking lot was surrounded by linden trees, all of them in full bloom.

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, the sweltering heat forgotten. The air vibrated with the inebriated buzzing of hundreds of bees as they staggered from flower to flower. I closed the door, rolled down the windows, and just sat there, adrift in scent and sound. A light breeze rustled the leaves and actually felt cool as it fanned past me.

Bees and linden flowers (photo by Ken Broadhurst)







Eventually, the slamming of a car door reminded me where I was and my purpose for being there. Unhurried, I checked the time and was surprised to realize I had to leave, my errand undone. I didn’t mind in the slightest, though.

Twenty-five years ago, I lived in downtown Indianapolis and walked to work. At that time, many of the streets were planted with linden trees, and I remember the dizzy sensation of walking to and from work when they were in bloom. So distracted and transported was I by the heady fragrance of those blossoms that it’s a miracle I didn’t walk into traffic and get myself killed.

Certain flowers and their fragrances have always had that effect on me. When the black locust trees are in bloom around here, I am truly a navigational menace on foot. I keep my car windows up because I fear I’ll go off the road following my nose if the breeze carries that powerful perfume my way. Black locust are very tall, so their sweet aroma carries for quite a distance, with or without a breeze.

Linden and black locust trees are both native to the region where I grew up and where several generations of my people lived and died. Maybe the scent of those blossoms stirs some deep, ancestral memory. Or maybe, as some have suggested, I was actually a bee in a previous life.


Special thanks to Ken Broadhurst of Living the Life in Saint-Aignan, who let me use his wonderful photo of bees and linden blossoms. He wrote a lovely post about the linden behind his house, with lots more photos. His blog is full of beautiful photography and stories that make you want to move to France — and don’t forget to check out his post about making dolmas using leaves from his own backyard vines!


3 responses to “Linden love (with locust)

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your piece this morning. Obviously, you’re gifted with extra smell sensory perception or maybe just lucky enough not to suffer from the allergies so prevalent among inhabitants of the Ohio Valley. Linden trees? That’s new to me; I’d never heard of them before. Thank you, Jennifer for opening my eyes… er, nose… to what’s around me.

    • Thank you, Cindy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. For a fleeting moment I wished I had scratch-n-sniff technology so readers could share the experience more fully, but quickly decided it’s just as well for everyone’s sake that I don’t. ;-D

      You’re right, though: I have a super-sensitive sniffer AND I don’t suffer from allergies. (Thank goodness for the latter!)

      I believe the more common name for the tree in North America is basswood. Since I was writing the post for L day, however, I decided to go with linden.

  2. Another plant that has a similar effect on me is Scotch broom. The garden center where I used to work had a large Scotch broom on the edge of the parking lot. When it was in full bloom, I could not walk across the parking lot without detouring to the broom and plunging my face into the mass of cream-colored blossoms, bees and all. They didn’t seem to mind. Maybe I should become a beekeeper one of these days…

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