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Jarrold, G - Weeping willow

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago

Plant: Salix bayblonica

by: Gavin Jarrold


Part 1




I was first introduced to the Weeping Willow as a child. My father planted it in our front yard to dry up a low-lying area that water always drained to. I remember it, as being really big but in relation to other trees it doesn’t grow very large, usually only about twenty to twenty five meters tall. My favorite thing about it was the way all of the branches sagged down to the ground shading and concealing everything below it. The tree was a hide away in my front yard and all of the neighborhood kids and myself play beneath the low hanging limbs of the tree. The tree eventually died when I was about fourteen years old so when ever I think about the Willow tree I think about the wonderful days of my childhood and it makes me happy. I was recently talking to my father on the phone about this project and he thought it might be a good idea to plant another willow in the place where the old one once flourished.




Large Babylonian Willow Tree in Boston Public Garden (Fenix. 2007)


"'Salix bayblonica'' is often referred to as either the Peking Willow or Babylon Willow and it is native to deciduous forests in northern China. This tree as well as most other willows likes to live in low-lying wet areas where they can have constant water uptake. It was a popular tree and for that reason humans have transported it all around the world to every continent besides Antarctica. This weeping willow was introduced to Europe a longtime ago by merchants coming from China, along a trade route called the Silk Road (Salix Babylonica… updated 2008 . It is considered an invasive species because it lives all over the world but is only native to Asia. Unlike most invasive species the Babylon Weeping Willow is not viewed as a pest because it doesn’t spread very fast and is seldom seen growing on its own in the wild outside of its natural habitat. This tree is typically rare in comparison to other deciduous trees because it isn’t as hardy and it needs to be located by a water source. It has leave that are about four to sixteen centimeters long and one to two centimeters wide. Although the word perennial most often refers to herbaceous plants the Weeping Babylon Willow is considered a perennial because it lives more than two years and flowers every spring. The species name Babylonica came from Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist. He gave it this name because he mistakenly thought it was a tree described in the bible that lived by the rivers of Babylon. The actual tree he had mistaken it for is a poplar.


When the tree flowers in the spring it produces slim cylindrical flower clusters called a catkin, which get about three to four centimeters long and are covered in little tiny flowers that each produce pollen. The Babylonian Willows are dioecious meaning they are either male or female trees. Male willows have catkins that known as staminate catkins and the female trees have pistillate catkins. The female Babylon willow tree can only be pollinated by male willows. Like most other trees living in a temperate environment the willows catkins generally use the wind to carry pollen from a male tree to a female.


Catkins of a Babylon Willow during springtime (Weeping Willow… updated 2006


Distribution of willow tree in North America (Distribution map… updated 2008 Feb 19

Gavin Jarrold

Plant Biology 209

March 6, 2008

Weeping Willow Tree

Salix bayblonica


The Babylon Weeping Willow can grow to heights of up to 60 feet with a trunk that is three feet in diameter. The bayblonica species have very long leaves with greenish-yellow twigs. Due to the massive size and thickness of the Weeping Willows leaves as well as its prime locations by water sources it is often a desirable hangout for other wildlife. It is also used to protect farmlands from wind in the Gobi Desert because it is so thick and resilient.


The Babylon Willow is native to broadleaf deciduous forest of Northern China. Its primary habitat is considered temperate broadleaf and mixed forests but the Babylon Willow is able to live in any temperate environment as long as there is enough water to support it. This Weeping Willow first left its native Chinese forests when the Silk Road was created in around 114 B.C. It was traded all over the known world to areas in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Soon after people began to hybridize it, most commonly with either the White Willow Salix alba or Crack Willow Salix fragilis to make it suitable for more humid environments in Europe and North America. Chances are the Weeping Willow that grew in my front yard and has inspired me was actually a hybrid with one of these two species. There is now way to tell now because the tree has been dead for about eight years. Before I began my research on the Weeping Willow I did not know that there are so many species that look so similar.


From then on it has lived all over the world winning over gardeners and landscapers everywhere. When the Europeans came to the Americas they brought the Weeping Willow with them and now it is considered a favorite among many Americans such as myself. The temperate broadleaf forest of the United States is a very similar environment to forest of Northern China where the Willow is native. The Babylon Willow could be considered an invasive species but it generally doesn’t spread very much in the wild. People have moved this plant all around the world because of its beauty.


The Babylon Weeping Willow requires a large amount of water to grow and remain healthy so they are generally found in areas of lower elevation around a water source within a temperate forest. It is often planted around ponds and lakes to provide a shady area to sit by the water.


The species name Babylonica came from Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist. He gave it this name because he mistakenly thought it was a tree described in the bible that lived by the rivers of Babylon. The actual tree he had mistaken it for is a poplar; which are closely related to willows. Poplars are also found in the same types of environments.


The Babylonian Willow Tree is not facing much danger in the future. Admirers of the tree will always plant it in their back yards and gardens because of that it is fairly safe from becoming extinct when compared to other plants. The only real risks that these Willows face are the possiblity of being cross bread and hybridized until it is no longer recognizable, and the destruction of its native environment due to global warming, and deforestation. The Chinese economy produces a huge amount of timber for export, and a large portion of that lumber comes from their northern temperate broadleaf forest. The Babylonian Weeping Willow is one of few plants that has benefited and grown in population numbers as a direct result of humans. In the eyes of most humans this tree is very beautiful and desirable to have around so as long as humans are planting trees I don’t think it will go extinct.



c2008. Salix Babylonica. In: wikipedia online encyclopedia. Internet cited 2008 Feb 16. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salix_babylonica#References


Distribution map (DM) Internet. updated 2008 Feb 19: United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; cited 2007 Jul 24]. Available from: http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?search=Salix+X+sepulcralis


Fenix. 2007. bostonscapes daily photo: bostonscapes photo blog. Internet. cited 2008 Feb 15 6:20. Available from: http://abostonvignette.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html


Meyer J. 2004. The Tree Book: A Practical Guide to Selecting and Maintaining the Best Trees for Your Yard and Garden. P. 177-178


Weeping Willow Tree (WWT) Internet. (CA): LoveToKnow Corp. cited 2008 Feb 17. Available from:



Weeping Willow (WW) internet. updated 2006 Apr 17. (UK): E2BN Gallery, Part of E2BN's Digital Media Assets Resource Library; cited 2008 Feb 16. Available from: http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/index.php

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