Salix Willow

Salix is indigenous in temperate regions throughout the world, except in Australia. It comprises about 500 species of shrubs and trees which vary greatly in shape and size. In this part of the world there are a number of species and many cultivars, e.g., S. alba, white willow, S. caprea, goat willow or pussy willow, and S. repens, creeping willow; some are also pollarded. This is a genus of deciduous, dioecious, woody-stemmed plants from dwarf varieties to tall shrubs and trees with slender, often strikingly coloured shoots, spreading, long, narrow, simple, often oblong, sometimes oval to round leaves, usually with supporting leaves which soon drop off, and usually yellow male and greenish female catkins on bare shoots or at the same time as the leaves (on some plants, these are very popular with insects). The fluffy seeds are dispersed by the wind.

S. bockii is a moderately hardy, broad, open shrub up to 1 m tall, with catkins in August-September, upright shoots, and dense, small, oval leaves; suitable for the rockery.

Salix ‘Boydii’ (syn. 5 x boydii) is a compact, tree-like shrub up to 50 cm tall. After many years it forms a small trunk. It has yellow catkins in May, upright shoots and small round, greyish-green leaves, later turning dark green.

S. caprea, goat willow, pussy willow, is a broad, upright shrub or tree, 3(-9) m tall, with downy, silvery-white catkins in March. The male catkins later turn yellow, are hairy at first and smooth later. It has greyish-brown branches and oval to round, dark green leaves, slightly bluish-green with greyish-white, felted, hairy undersides; ‘Kilmarnock’ (syn. ‘Pendula’) is a low-growing, weeping willow with beautiful large, silvery-white catkins. S. hastata ‘Wehrhahnii’ is an elegant, branched shrub, 1-2 m tall, with purplish-brown shoots in winter and striking, silvery-white catkins, 5 cm long, in March-April. It has oval leaves, 3-6 cm long, and requires a sunny spot and moist soil. Also suitable for rockeries. S. lanata, woolly willow, is a slow-growing shrub up to 60 cm tall and broad, with stout, white, woolly, hairy shoots, oval to round leaves, 3-7 cm long, covered with silvery hair, pale yellow male catkins up to 5 cm long, and green female catkins up to 8 cm long, which appear in May; suitable for the rocker)’ in a cool, slightly shady spot, in moist, well-drained soil. This plant is suitable as a specimen plant, in groups, at the waterside, in sun or slight shade, in nutritious, moist soil. It can be pruned back once a year after flowering. Propagate from winter cuttings.

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