Basket Willow- Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
Basket Willows are exceptionally fast-growing trees, about 1 metre per year, and don’t require much, or even any attention to thrive. They are native to many parts of Europe and Asia. The individual stems have relatively short life spans, around 50 -70 years; but their tendency to shoot new stems from the roots, particularly when coppiced, and even shoot from branches that fall to the ground, allows the plant to persist indefinitely. They can grow to heights of 3-6 metres, spreads of 2.5 metres and grow best in full sun, being relatively intolerant of shade.
The plant is tolerant of all soil conditions but thrives on wet soils and is often found lining the banks of water sources. These trees have shallow but extremely extensive root systems, often extending out up to four times the size of the crown. The leaves are long and narrow, glossy green on top and silvery with a hairy texture underneath. They are one of the first trees to flower, with catkins appearing in early April before the leaves. Willow catkins are also a favourite of insects, particularly bees and butterflies for whom they are an important early source of pollen after the long winter.
Basket Willows are famously elegant and beautiful, but also extremely
functional. Their shallow and spreading roots are used for erosion control along river banks. Their flexibility and rapid growth make for an excellent material to weave into any form one might desire: living fencing, chairs, windbreaks, gazebos, picnic tables. Truly the only limit is the imagination. As living willow sculptures become increasingly popular, it is amazing to see what some people can do with this tree! Willows are also used to reclaim disused industrial or mining sites due to their ability to absorb heavy metal contamination. This is not the only environmental use of this species, as it is also employed to create small scale water treatment systems. It is the best and most commonly used plant in the production of biofuel. The leaves and inner bark are edible but not particularly palatable. The bark can be made into rope and has long been used in Chinese medicine and herbal medicine in general for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. It contains salicin, which is metabolized into salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.
Basket willow is one of the fastest-growing trees around – it generally grows about 1 meter per year, sometimes more if it is coppiced. Its growth pattern will depend on whether it is cut back each year or not. If it is not cut back, it will form a bushy tree of about 6m in height with a 4m spread.
Willow trees have extensive root systems, which is advantageous if one wishes to control erosion, for example. However it is best not to plant them within about 10 metres of buildings or drains.
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of the growth of the willow in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In a colder climate it might be slower, and in richer soil it might be faster.