Tilia cordata is a deciduous tree growing to 20–40 m (66–131 ft) tall, diameter 1/3 to 1/2 the height, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter. The bark is smooth and grayish when young, firm with vertical ridges and horizontal fissures when older. The crown is rounded in a formal oval shape to pyramidal. Branching is upright and increases in density with age. The leaves are alternately arranged, rounded to triangular-ovate, 3–8 cm long and broad, mostly hairless (unlike the related Tilia platyphyllos) except for small tufts of brown hair in the leaf vein axils – the leaves are distinctively heart-shaped. The buds are alternate, pointed egg shaped and have red scales. It has no terminal bud. The small yellow-green hermaphrodite flowers are produced in clusters of five to eleven in early summer with a leafy yellow-green subtending bract, have a rich, heavy scent; the trees are much visited by bees to the erect flowers which are held above the bract; this flower arrangement is distinctly different from that of the Common Lime Tilia × europaea where the flowers are held beneath the bract. The fruit is a dry nut-like drupe 6–7 mm long by 4 mm broad containing one, or sometimes two, brown seeds (infertile fruits are globose), downy at first becoming smooth at maturity, and (unlike T. platyphyllos and also T. × europaea) not ribbed but very thin and easily cracked open.