T. cordata originated in Asia, where it still shows the widest range of diversity. It is expected that the species originally germinated between 1150 and 1300. It is difficult to tell the real age of the species because the inner wood of the tree is so soft that it rots, making ring counting impossible. T. cordata has spread across the northern hemisphere and now populates North America and Europe. It is a very hardy tree that can tolerate a wide range of light exposure, varying soil conditions, strong winds, and moderate drought. The seeds will populate the surrounding area and can remain dormant for many months to years before germinating.
Origin, history, and uses:
Due to the reliable growth pattern and low maintenance of T. cordata, these trees are a common architectural plant. They are common residential foliage, often lining sidewalks, medians, parking lots, etc. The wood is soft and difficult to finish and sand, so it is not commonly used for furniture or other industrial purposes. Instead, the wood is popular for puppet making and sculpting because it is very light. As mentioned above, the bast is very durable. This fiber has many applications including mats, shoes, rope, or paper. For example, the Ainu people in Japan have used the bast of T. cordata in weaving their clothing for centuries. The bulbs located on the end of the twigs are frequently eaten by animals because of their sweet nature and large quantity. These bulbs also have many human uses in light adhesive products, such as stamps. For centuries, T. cordata flowers have been used for their medicinal purposes to treat anxiety and stomach problems. A popular tea can be concocted from the leaves with similar therapeutic characteristics. A comparable substitute for chocolate can be created from grinding together the leaves and flowers of T. cordata because they are very mucilaginous, however the product has not been widely successful because it doesn’t have a long shelf life.
T. cordata flowers attract bees which behave as biological fertilization vectors. The only real threat to T. cordata is the Japanese beetle. In the northern growth regions, the beetles can eat all of the foliage in a single tree. Aphids, caterpillars, lace bugs, and spider mites can all feed on the leaves as well, however these species are not life threatening. They are more of an inconvenience, causing the tree to produce extra mucilage and discoloring the foliage. Furthermore, there are not extremely deadly diseases threatening T. cordata. Some diseases, such as anthracnose which causes browning on the leaves near the veins, or verticillium which causes death in the branches, effect the species but are not overwhelming.