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Different Types of Willow Trees

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Authored by Sylvia Cochran in Nature and Wildlife 
Published on 12-24-2009

Homeowners searching for ornamental flora will do well to take a look at the different types of willow trees. They are deciduous in nature, grow as either full-sized trees or shrubs and are also available as dwarf cultivars. This makes the willow uniquely appropriate for virtually any kind of backyard or other landscape.

Peking Willow (Salix babylonica)

The Peking willow is the most famous of the different types of willow trees. It is native to the arid regions of northern China. Since it grows up to an average size of about 65 feet or taller, homeowners must be wise where they place this beautiful tree. Mature trees add an eerie but immensely restful atmosphere to a garden spot. In their native China they are used as windbreaks; they may also function as such in the United States, especially along roadways and large fields.

White Willow (Salix alba)

With an average height of 33 feet, the white willow is a suitable addition to smaller landscapes. It is native to Europe and easily recognizable by the white undersides of the leaves. Unfortunately, this type of willow tree is highly susceptible to watermark disease – a bacterial plant ailment – that will eventually kill the tree. If the homeowner witnesses effects of the disease, it is imperative to cut down the tree before a strong storm may break off the weakened wood and cause property damage or endanger lives.

Weeping Willow (Salix × sepulcralis)

The most famous of willows, the weeping willow, is actually a hybrid between the Peking willow and the white willow. Its branches are extremely bent and low hanging, making it a wonderful privacy screen for a gazebo or yard bench. When swaying in the breeze, the tree exudes elegance and grace; its rich green coloring provides a stunning contrast to other landscape features, especially water. Since it can grow to the respectable height of 50 feet, it is a good choice only for large yards and open landscapes.

Goat Willow (Salix caprea)

Homeowners with an eye on shrub sized flora might like the goat willow. It only grows to about 18 feet and does well in very wet but also arid soils. The small flower clusters are very attractive. These trees may be grown together in small groupings to heighten the effect of the swaying flower clusters. Combine them with a purple willow, and they supply a stunning landscape coloring.

Purple Willow (Salix purpurea)

One of the smaller shrubs, the purple willow grows to an average height of about three feet. In an unkempt landscape, this little shrub can easily get lost among larger trees and other shrubbery. The purple willow – named for its bright red or purple flower clusters – makes an excellent addition to a smaller landscape with primarily diminutive plants, where it can stand out.

Caveat: Although the different types of willow trees are aesthetically pleasing and make wonderful additions to various landscapes, they are not without problems. The trees’ leaves are very messy. Many cultivars are highly susceptible to pest and storm damage, and the roots are well known for intruding into homes’ water pipes.

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