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Woody > Salix > Salix babylonica > Salix babylonica

Salix babylonica

Weeping Willow

Origin:  Native to China. Naturalized in south Ontario, south Quebec, south to Georgia, and west to Missouri. Introduced to the West in 1730. The name babylonica comes from Babylon, but it was mistakenly named by Linneaus who believed it to be the tree that was along the river Euphrates, that tree was actually Populus euphratica.
            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


This tree is a magnificent specimen with its weeping shape and long branches of flush with narrow, shiny green leaves. Although it should not be planted residentially due to its large spreading form, it is a beautiful specimen along a river or lake. It is native to China, but due to its naturalization in North America can be found far and wide. It is also widely used medicinally, most commonly for its salicin. Salicin creates salicylic acid, which is an ingredient in Aspirin.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
6 - 8
Canadian Hardiness Zone
5a - 8a
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
-21 - (-18)
Temperature (°F)
-5 - 0
9 - 15 m
10 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
A deciduous tree with a short, broad trunk that has a rounded crown of drooping branches that sweep the ground. Those branches bear long, narrow, pointed, glabrous leaves that are finely toothed and dark green, with greyish undersides. In autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow, but do not leave the tree until late autumn. Its flowers are rather insignificant. It has catkins that are mostly green with the exception of yellow anthers on the male flowers. However, most trees are female. When early summer arrives, the fruit is formed a consists of a small brown capsule.
Although it is vigorously naturalized in North America it is not often used in landscapes in cities, parks or residential areas. It is often found and better suited to large, open fields or along river or lake margins. This plant has limited use in dense urban areas as it produces a lot of litter, has invasive roots that will clog pipes or sewers, and is fast growing and therefore has weak wood that could considered hazardous in populated areas.
It can be grown in drier fields and partial sun, but in these conditions the tree will not reach its full potential. It thrives in moist, poorly drained soils with a pH level of 5.0 – 6.5 or higher and at least 4 hours of full sun. Although it is tolerant of salt from urban areas it should not be planted near roads because of its characteristic weak wood. Young trees don’t tolerate frost well, so planting in spring or summer is ideal, however it does transplant easily.
Stemming from a short, stout trunk, the tree opens into a broad, rounded crown with long weeping branches.
ID Characteristic
This tree is well known for its broad form, weeping foliage that droops down to the ground. The foliage canopy is composed of long finely-toothed leaves of green turning yellow in autumn. It is commonly planted and grown around bodies of water like lakes or rivers as it prefers very moist soils. It is native to China, but has vigorously naturalized in North America.
Plants can experience willow scab and root rot. The fast growing weak wood can also result in damage to the tree from cracking branches. It is prone to pests like caterpillars, aphids, and gypsy moths that also favour the species .
It is often found along lakes and rivers since the soil is rich and moist, although it does have some tolerance to dry conditions. It can also thrive in open areas where the soil may be drier, but will lose leaves unless regularly watered.
Bark/Stem Description
Brownish-grey coloured bark, soft when young, but grows rough and furrowed with age with long branching ridges.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
The buds are usually 1 – 2 cm long and are a greenish-yellow colour. They are similar to other willows having one visible scale.
Leaf Description
The leaves are simple, glabrous and green with a greyish underside. The leaves are alternate, lanceolate, usually 7 – 15 cm long and 5 – 20 mm wide with pinnate venation and finely saw-toothed margins. The leaves turn a bright yellow in autumn.
Flower Description
During April – May, fuzzy catkins appear on leafy peduncles. Plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. Females are smaller at 15 – 25 mm long and males are 18 – 30 mm. Along with being longer, males are more easily recognized by their yellow anthers. They are mostly inconspicuous.
Fruit Description
Forming in clusters, the fruits are 2 – 3 mm long conical capsules that are light brown in colour. They contain cottony seeds. The fruit are glabrous, not showy, and ripen in May to June.
Colour Description
During the spring and summer, green leaves with greyish undersides are seen. Once autumn arrives, the leaves turn a bright yellow, and the bark maintains its brownish-grey colour. The catkins are usually green, but the males have yellow anthers, causing the catkins to look yellowish.
Texture Description
Has rough, furrowed bark and smooth, glabrous leaves.
Notable Specimens
The record holder for largest specimen resides in Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County, Virginia, United States of America..
Easily by hardwood cuttings of pencil thickness taken in late March and planted in most peat or perlite; it roots quite easily.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
Willow bark has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is believed that the leaves and bark are antirheumatic, and astringent, also easing pain and reducing inflammation. Other studies have shown that the use of willow, in terms of pain and inflammation reduction are as effective as aspirin, however it does not reduce fever. Some also use it as an ornamental because of its beauty, often in cemeteries. However due to its weak wood and invasive roots it may cause damage.
Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees Eastern Region (2014): 329-330. Dirr, Michael A. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants 6th Edition (2009): 1037