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Salix

 

Salix

For other uses, see Willow (disambiguation).
"Salix" redirects here. For other uses, see Salix (disambiguation).
Willow
Salix alba 'Vitellina-Tristis'
Morton Arboretum acc. 58-95*1
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Salicaceae
Tribe: Saliceae[1]
Genus: Salix
L.
Species

About 400.[2]
See List of Salix species

Willows, sallows, and osiers form the genus Salix, around 400 species[2] 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 sallow (from 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 in) in height, though it spreads widely across the ground.

Description

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 life, and roots readily grow from aerial parts of the plant.

The leaves are typically elongated, but may also be round to oval, frequently with serrated margins. Most species are deciduous; semievergreen willows; 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, enclosing at its base two minute, opposite buds, alternately arranged, with two small, opposite, scale-like leaves. This first pair soon falls, and the later leaves are alternately arranged. 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, look like tiny, round leaves, and sometimes remain for half the summer. On some species, however, they are small, inconspicuous, and fugacious (soon falling). In color, the leaves show a great variety of greens, ranging from yellowish to bluish.

Flowers

Willows are dioecious, with male and female flowers appearing as catkins on different plants; the catkins are produced early in the spring, often before the leaves, or as the new leaves open.

The staminate (male) flowers are without either calyx or 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 longitudinally. 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.

Cultivation

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 thrived, and legend has it that all of England's weeping willows are descended from this first one.[3][4]

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 from them.

Hybrids

Willows are very cross-fertile, 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) from Europe.

The hybrid cultivar 'Boydii' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[5]

Ecological issues


Willows are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. 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, and many catchment management authorities are removing and replacing them with native trees.[6][7]

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.[8][9]

Pests and diseases

Willow species are hosts to more than a hundred aphid species, belonging to Chaitophorus and other genera,[10] forming large colonies to feed on plant juices, on the underside of leaves in particular.[11] Rust, caused by fungi of genus Melampsora, is known to damage leaves of willows, covering them with orange spots.[12]

Uses

Medicine

The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt[13] as a remedy for aches and fever,[14] and in Ancient Greece the physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the fifth century BC. Native Americans across the 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.[15] 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).

Willow has been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies,[16] a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However according to Cancer Research UK, "there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer".[17]

Manufacturing

Some of humans' earliest manufactured items may have been made from willow. A fishing net made from willow dates back to 8300 BC.[18] Basic crafts, such as baskets, fish traps, wattle fences and wattle and daub house walls, were often woven from osiers (rod-like willow shoots, often grown in coppices). One of the forms of Welsh coracle traditionally uses willow in the 'lats'. 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 (grown from certain strains of white willow), 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.

Other



  • 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.[19]

Culture

  • Culture: 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.[24] 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.[25] 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).[26] Hongrang wrote:
"...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.[27][28]
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 it name from the Latin word for osier, viminia (pl.).

Selected species

Main article: List of Salix species

The genus Salix is made up of around 400 species[2] of deciduous trees and shrubs:

See also

Trees portal

References

Bibliography

  • Keeler, Harriet L. (1990). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. Pages 393–395. ISBN 0-87338-838-0.
  • Newsholme, C. (1992). Willows: The Genus Salix. ISBN 0-88192-565-9
  • Warren-Wren, S.C. (1992). The Complete Book of Willows. ISBN 0-498-01262-X
  • Sviatlana Trybush, Šárka Jahodová, William Macalpine and Angela Karp. (2008). BioEnergy Research. 1(1):67 – 79.

External links

  • 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica

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