See List of Salix species
Willows, also called sallows, and osiers, form the genus Salix, around
400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist
soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Most
species are known as willow, but some narrow-leaved shrub species are
called osier, and some broader-leaved species are referred to as
Old English sealh, related to the
Latin word salix,
willow). Some willows (particularly arctic and alpine species) are
low-growing or creeping shrubs; for example, the dwarf willow (Salix
herbacea) rarely exceeds 6 cm (2.4 in) in height, though it
spreads widely across the ground.
4 Ecological issues
5 Pests and diseases
8 Selected species
9 See also
12 External links
At the base of the petiole a pair of stipules form. These may fall in
spring, or last for much of the summer or even for more than one year
Willows all have abundant watery bark sap, which is heavily charged
with salicylic acid, soft, usually pliant, tough wood, slender
branches, and large, fibrous, often stoloniferous roots. The roots are
remarkable for their toughness, size, and tenacity to live, and roots
readily sprout from aerial parts of the plant.
The leaves are typically elongated, but may also be round to oval,
frequently with serrated edges. Most species are deciduous;
semievergreen willows with coriaceous leaves are rare, e.g. Salix
micans and S. australior in the eastern Mediterranean. All the buds
are lateral; no absolutely terminal bud is ever formed. The buds are
covered by a single scale. Usually, the bud scale is fused into a
cap-like shape, but in some species it wraps around and the edges
overlap. The leaves are simple, feather-veined, and typically
linear-lanceolate. Usually they are serrate, rounded at base, acute or
acuminate. The leaf petioles are short, the stipules often very
conspicuous, resembling tiny, round leaves, and sometimes remaining
for half the summer. On some species, however, they are small,
inconspicuous, and caducous (soon falling). In color, the leaves show
a great variety of greens, ranging from yellowish to bluish color.
Young male catkin
Willows are dioecious, with male and female flowers appearing as
catkins on separate plants; the catkins are produced early in the
spring, often before the leaves.
The staminate (male) flowers are without either calyx with corolla;
they consist simply of stamens, varying in number from two to 10,
accompanied by a nectariferous gland and inserted on the base of a
scale which is itself borne on the rachis of a drooping raceme called
a catkin, or ament. This scale is square, entire, and very hairy. The
anthers are rose-colored in the bud, but orange or purple after the
flower opens; they are two-celled and the cells open latitudinally.
The filaments are threadlike, usually pale brown, and often bald.
The pistillate (female) flowers are also without calyx or corolla, and
consist of a single ovary accompanied by a small, flat nectar gland
and inserted on the base of a scale which is likewise borne on the
rachis of a catkin. The ovary is one-celled, the style two-lobed, and
the ovules numerous.
Almost all willows take root very readily from cuttings or where
broken branches lie on the ground. The few exceptions include the goat
willow (Salix caprea) and peachleaf willow (Salix amygdaloides). One
famous example of such growth from cuttings involves the poet
Alexander Pope, who begged a twig from a parcel tied with twigs sent
from Spain to Lady Suffolk. This twig was planted and throve, and
legend has it that all of England's weeping willows are descended from
this first one.
Willows are often planted on the borders of streams so their
interlacing roots may protect the bank against the action of the
water. Frequently, the roots are much larger than the stem which grows
Willows are very cross-compatible, and numerous hybrids occur, both
naturally and in cultivation. A well-known ornamental example is the
weeping willow (Salix × sepulcralis), which is a hybrid of Peking
willow (Salix babylonica) from China and white willow (Salix alba)
A Weeping Willow, an example of a hybrid between two types of willow
The hybrid cultivar 'Boydii' has gained the Royal Horticultural
Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Knotted willow and woodpile in the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen, Ghent,
Willows are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera
species, such as the mourning cloak butterfly. Ants, such as wood
ants, are common on willows inhabited by aphids, coming to collect
aphid honeydew, as sometimes do wasps.
A small number of willow species were widely planted in Australia,
notably as erosion-control measures along watercourses. They are now
regarded as invasive weeds which occupy extensive areas across
southern Australia and are considered 'Weeds of National
Significance'. Many catchment management authorities are removing and
replacing them with native trees.
Substantial research undertaken from 2006 has identified that willows
often inhabit an unoccupied niche when they spread across the bed of
shallow creeks and streams and if removed, there is a potential water
saving of up to 500 mm/per year per hectare of willow canopy
area, depending on willow species and climate zone. This water could
benefit the environment or provision of local water resources,
especially during dry periods. To aid management of
willows, a remote sensing method has been developed to accurately map
willow area along and in streams across southern Australia.
Willow roots spread widely and are very aggressive in seeking out
moisture; for this reason, they can become problematic when planted in
residential areas, where the roots are notorious for clogging French
drains, drainage systems, weeping tiles, septic systems, storm drains,
and sewer systems, particularly older, tile, concrete, or ceramic
pipes. Newer, PVC sewer pipes are much less leaky at the joints, and
are therefore less susceptible to problems from willow roots; the same
is true of water supply piping.
Pests and diseases
Willow species are hosts to more than a hundred aphid species,
belonging to Chaitophorus and other genera, forming large colonies
to feed on plant juices, on the underside of leaves in particular.
Corythucha elegans, the willow lace bug, is a bug species in the
family Tingidae found on willows in North America.
Rust, caused by fungi of genus Melampsora, is known to damage leaves
of willows, covering them with orange spots.
The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient
texts from Assyria,
Sumer and Egypt as a remedy for aches and
fever, and in
Ancient Greece the physician
Hippocrates wrote about
its medicinal properties in the fifth century BC. Native Americans
Americas relied on it as a staple of their medical
treatments. It provides temporary pain relief.
Salicin is metabolized
into salicylic acid in the human body, and is a precursor of
aspirin. In 1763, its medicinal properties were observed by the
Reverend Edward Stone in England. He notified the Royal Society, which
published his findings. The active extract of the bark, called
salicin, was isolated to its crystalline form in 1828 by Henri Leroux,
a French pharmacist, and Raffaele Piria, an Italian chemist, who then
succeeded in separating out the compound in its pure state. In 1897,
Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin (in
his case derived from the
Spiraea plant), which caused less digestive
upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally acetylsalicylic
acid, was named
Aspirin by Hoffmann's employer
Bayer AG. This gave
rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Some of humans' earliest manufactured items may have been made from
willow. A fishing net made from willow dates back to 8300 BC.
Basic crafts, such as baskets, fish traps, wattle fences and wattle
and daub house walls, were often woven from osiers or withies
(rod-like willow shoots, often grown in coppices). One of the forms of
Welsh coracle boat traditionally uses willow in the framework. Thin or
split willow rods can be woven into wicker, which also has a long
history. The relatively pliable willow is less likely to split while
being woven than many other woods, and can be bent around sharp
corners in basketry.
Willow wood is also used in the manufacture of
boxes, brooms, cricket bats, cradle boards, chairs and other
furniture, dolls, flutes, poles, sweat lodges, toys, turnery, tool
handles, veneer, wands and whistles. In addition, tannin, fibre,
paper, rope and string can be produced from the wood.
Willow is also
used in the manufacture of double basses for backs, sides and linings,
and in making splines and blocks for bass repair.
Male catkin of
Salix cinerea with bee
Willow tree in spring, England
Willow tree with woodbine honeysuckle
The willow tree as seen as the main part of an heraldic escutcheon
over the main portal of a patrician house belonging to the Salis
family in Chur, Switzerland, circa 1750
Environmental art installation "Sandworm" in the Wenduine Dunes,
Belgium, made entirely out of willow
Agriculture: Willows produce a modest amount of nectar from which bees
can make honey, and are especially valued as a source of early pollen
for bees. Poor people at one time often ate willow catkins that had
been cooked to form a mash.
Willow is used to make charcoal (for drawing) and in living
sculptures. Living sculptures are created from live willow rods
planted in the ground and woven into shapes such as domes and tunnels.
Willow stems are used to weave baskets and three-dimensional
sculptures, such as animals and figures.
Willow stems are also used to
create garden features, such as decorative panels and obelisks.
Willow is grown for biomass or biofuel, in energy forestry
systems, as a consequence of its high energy in-energy out ratio,
large carbon mitigation potential and fast growth. Large-scale
projects to support willow as an energy crop are already at commercial
scale in Sweden. Programs in other countries are being developed
through initiatives such as the
Biomass Project in the US, and
Coppice Project in the UK.
Willow may also be grown to
Environment: As a plant, willow is used for biofiltration,
constructed wetlands, ecological wastewater treatment systems,
hedges, land reclamation, landscaping, phytoremediation,
streambank stabilisation (bioengineering), slope stabilisation, soil
erosion control, shelterbelt and windbreak, soil building, soil
reclamation, tree bog compost toilet, and wildlife habitat.
Willow is one of the "Four Species" used ritually during the
Jewish holiday of Sukkot. In Buddhism, a willow branch is one of the
chief attributes of Kwan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. Christian
churches in northwestern Europe and Ukraine and
Bulgaria[better source needed] often used willow
branches in place of palms in the ceremonies on Palm Sunday.
The willow is one of the four species associated with the Jewish
festival of Sukkot.
Willow branches are also used during the synagogue
service on Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot.
In China, some people carry willow branches with them on the day of
their Tomb Sweeping or Qingming Festival.
Willow branches are also put
up on gates and/or front doors, which they believe help ward off the
evil spirits that wander on Qingming. Legend states that on Qingming
Festival, the ruler of the underworld allows the spirits of the dead
to return to earth. Since their presence may not always be welcome,
willow branches keep them away. In traditional pictures of the
Goddess of Mercy Guanyin, she is often shown seated on a rock with a
willow branch in a vase of water at her side. The Goddess employs this
mysterious water and the branch for putting demons to flight. Taoist
witches also use a small carving made from willow wood for
communicating with the spirits of the dead. The image is sent to the
nether world, where the disembodied spirit is deemed to enter it, and
give the desired information to surviving relatives on its return.
The willow is a famous subject in many East Asian nations' cultures,
particularly in pen and ink paintings from China and Japan.
A gisaeng (Korean geisha) named Hongrang, who lived in the middle of
the Joseon Dynasty, wrote the poem "By the willow in the rain in the
evening", which she gave to her parting lover (Choi Gyeong-chang).
"...I will be the willow on your bedside."
In Japanese tradition, the willow is associated with ghosts. It is
popularly supposed that a ghost will appear where a willow grows.
Willow trees are also quite prevalent in folklore and myths.
In English folklore, a willow tree is believed to be quite sinister,
capable of uprooting itself and stalking travellers. The Viminal Hill,
one of the Seven Hills Of Rome, derives its name from the
for osier, viminia (pl.).
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story called "Under the
(1853) in which children ask questions of a tree they call
"willow-father", paired with another entity called "elder-mother".
"Green Willow" is a Japanese ghost story in which a young samurai
falls in love with a woman called Green
Willow who has a close
spiritual connection with a willow tree. "The
Willow Wife" is
another, not dissimilar tale. "Wisdom of the
Willow Tree" is an
Osage Nation story in which a young man seeks answers from a willow
tree, addressing the tree in conversation as 'Grandfather'.
Willow is featured throughout the Harry Potter series,
most notably as a guardian for a backdoor entrance to the Shrieking
Shack. This is especially important in the third and seventh
installments of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows respectively.
In Central Europe a "hollow willow" is a common figure of speech,
alluding to a person one can confide secrets in. The metaphor was used
e.g. in the poem Král Lávra (King Lear) by Czech poet Karel
Havlíček Borovský (1854).
Willow is considered the national tree of Ukraine.
Main article: List of Salix species
The genus Salix is made up of around 400 species of deciduous trees
Salix acutifolia Willd. – long-leaved violet willow
Salix alaxensis (Andersson) Coville
Salix alba L. – white willow
Salix amygdaloides Andersson – peachleaf willow
Salix arbuscula L.
Salix arbusculoides – littletree willow
Salix arctica Pall. –
Salix arizonica Dorn
Salix atrocinerea Brot. – grey willow
Salix aurita L. – eared willow
Salix babylonica L. – Babylon willow, Peking willow or weeping
Salix barclayi Andersson
Salix barrattiana – Barratt's willow
Salix bebbiana Sarg. – beaked willow, long-beaked willow, and
Salix bonplandiana Kunth – Bonpland willow
Salix boothii Dorn – Booth's willow
Salix brachycarpa Nutt.
Salix breweri Bebb – Brewer's willow
Salix canariensis Chr. Sm.
Salix candida Flüggé ex Willd. – sageleaf willow
Salix caprea L. – goat willow, or pussy willow
Salix caroliniana Michx. – coastal plain willow
Salix chaenomeloides Kimura
Salix cinerea L. – grey willow
Salix cordata Michx. – sand dune willow, furry willow, or
Salix delnortensis C.K.Schneid. – Del Norte willow
Salix discolor Muhl. – American willow
Salix drummondiana Barratt ex Hook. – Drummond's willow
Salix eastwoodiae Cockerell ex A.Heller – Eastwood's willow,
mountain willow, or Sierra willow
Salix eleagnos Scop. – olive willow
Salix exigua Nutt. – sandbar willow, narrowleaf willow, or
Salix fragilis L. – crack willow
Salix fuscescens – Alaska bog willow
Salix geyeriana Andersson – Geyer's willow
Salix gilgiana Seemen
Salix glauca L.
Salix gooddingii C. R. Ball – Goodding's willow, or Goodding's
Salix gracilistyla Miq.
Salix hastata L.
Salix herbacea L. – dwarf willow, least willow or snowbed
Salix hookeriana Barratt ex Hook. – dune willow, coastal
willow, or Hooker's willow
Salix humboldtiana Willd.
Salix integra Thunb.
Salix japonica Thunb.
Salix jepsonii C.K.Schneid. – Jepson's willow
Salix jessoensis Seemen
Salix koriyanagi Kimura ex Goerz
Salix laevigata Bebb – red willow or polished willow
Salix lanata L. – woolly willow
Salix lapponum L. – downy willow
Salix lasiolepis Benth. – arroyo willow
Salix lemmonii Bebb – Lemmon's willow
Salix libani – Lebanese willow
Salix ligulifolia C.R.Ball – strapleaf willow
Salix lucida Muhl. – shining willow, Pacific willow, or
Salix lutea Nutt. – yellow willow
Salix magnifica Hemsl.
Salix matsudana Koidz. – Chinese willow or twisted willow,
Salix melanopsis Nutt. – dusky willow
Salix miyabeana Seemen
Salix mucronata – Cape silver willow
Salix microphylla Schltdl. & Cham.
Salix myrsinifolia Salisb.
Salix myrtilloides L. – swamp willow
Salix nigra Marshall – black willow
Salix orestera C.K.Schneid. – Sierra willow or gray-leafed
Salix paradoxa Kunth
Salix pentandra L. – bay willow
Salix phylicifolia L.
Salix pierotii – Korean willow
Salix planifolia Pursh. – diamondleaf willow or tea-leafed
Salix polaris Wahlenb. – polar willow
Salix prolixa Andersson – MacKenzie's willow
Salix purpurea L. – purple willow or purple osier
Salix reticulata L. – net-veined willow
Salix rorida Lacksch.
Salix schwerinii E. L. Wolf
Salix scouleriana Barratt ex Hook. – Scouler's willow
Salix sepulcralis group – hybrid willows
Salix sericea Marshall – silky willow
Salix serissima (L. H. Bailey) Fernald — autumn willow or fall
Salix sessilifolia Nutt. – northwest sandbar willow
Salix sitchensis C. A. Sanson ex Bong. – Sitka willow
Salix subopposita Miq.
Salix taxifolia Kunth – yew-leaf willow
Salix tetrasperma Roxb. – Indian willow
Salix triandra L. – almond willow or almond-leaved willow
Salix udensis Trautv. & C. A. Mey.
Salix viminalis L. – common osier
Salix vulpina Andersson
Salix yezoalpina Koidz.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Salix.
Wikispecies has information related to Salix
Aravah, the Hebrew name of the willow, for its ritual use during the
Jewish Feast of Tabernacles;
Lepidoptera that feed on willows
Rhabdophaga rosaria, a willow gall;
Willow water, using the biological rooting hormones indolebutyric acid
and salicylic acid from willow branches to stimulate root growth in
Sail ogham letter meaning willow.
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Look up withy or osier in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Look up willow, sallow, withy, or osier in Wiktionary, the free
"Willow". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). 1911.
"Willow". The New Student's Reference Work. 1914.
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