There are three species of Lime that flower in June and July. The Broad-leaved Lime is native to Europe and Western Asia. It was probably introduced to Britain but now grows naturally in the lime rich soils such as those of the Wye Valley and parts of the Pennines. It flowers in June. The Small-leaved Lime is native to Europe, including Britain. It grows naturally in old woods and hedges in England and Wales as far north as the Lake District and some varieties have been planted in gardens and streets. It flowers in July. The Common Lime is a natural hybrid of the Broad-leaved Lime and the Small-leaved Lime and grows across Europe wherever these two are present. In Britain it has been planted everywhere in streets, parks, churchyards and formal gardens. The Common Lime flowers after the Broad-leaved Lime, usually in July.
Lime tree flowers and fruit are always attached to a pale green, odd-shaped leaf called a bract. The number of flowers and fruit per bract varies between Lime species but they are all arranged in a branched structure called a cyme.
Lime trees do not produce the citrus fruits we know as limes. They come from a small tree with the scientific name Citrus aurantifolia, which originates in Southeast Asia. The word lime, as used for trees in Britain is believed to come from the Old English word lind.
The Broad-leaved lime is the first lime to come into flower, usually in June. This photograph was taken on June 4th. The flower has both male and female parts. The male anthers are yellow, the female stigma and ovary are white.
The fruit of the Broad-leaved lime is strongly ribbed. The 5 ribs can easily be seen by mid September.
The flowers of the Small-leaved Lime stick out at all angles from the bract, whereas on other limes they hang down. Some flowers come out at in early July. There are from 5-11 per bract.
Flowers of the Small-leaved Lime develop into fruit by mid August
Flowers of the Common Lime come out in July. Each flower has a white Stigma, Style and Ovary, which is surrounded by yellow or brown anthers.
Fruit of the Common Lime at the end of July. There are 4 to 10 per bract. The fruit are not ribbed like Broad-leaved Lime fruit.