A Common Lime, Tilia europaea, was planted in November 1846 by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Reverend Ralph Tatham, to mark the opening of the ‘new’ Botanic Garden. This tree still stands by the Main Gate that forms the western focal point to the majestic Main Walk. Its leaf has become the Garden’s logo.
The Lime collection was increased significantly in the 1980s when Professor Donald Pigott (Director 1984-1995) established a reference collection as part of his work on the genus. Tilia endochrysea, for example, is notable for the leaves which are bright crimson when they break in spring, fading to pink and then green as they expand. A young tree of the Noble Lime, Tilia nobilis, infrequently found in cultivation, also provokes much admiration. The flowers dangle from a long, branched flower stalk to which is fused a beautiful pale green leaf bract. Some inches down, the bract peels away to flutter freely, making this a tree that dances in the slightest breeze. The leaves are characteristically heart-shaped, with the veining and toothed edge picked out impeccably in a light green. It is probable that Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson introduced Tilia nobilis to cultivation as it is listed in Sargent’s Plantae wilsonianae of 1916-17.