WEEPING WILLOWS (salix genus) have been around for centuries and carry many popular legends and medicinal purposes. Propogated, like a pussy willow, you can easily root a cutting right into the ground. This is why we see so many of them growing all over.
The beautiful weeping willow is native to Asia where ancient Chinese once believed that the willows branches would ward off evil spirits, therefore they would often carry and place the branches over doorways to keep the daunting spirits away. Story has it that the first weeping willow grew in Babylon, where the children of Israel were taken into slavery.
Psalms 137: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.”
When the harps were hung on the willow tree, the branches were forever destined to “weep” and grow downward.
Willows are found and grown around the world and have many legends associated with them. Many notable sayings and practices were born around the willow tree. One of the most common traditions today has its roots in an old Celtic custom where if you knock on a willow tree, it is said to send away bad luck and that is where the saying “knock on wood” originated.
Native Americans tied willow branches to their boats to protect them from storms and to their lodges for the protection of the Great Spirit.
North American willows are a host plant for the Mourning Cloak butterfly and the catkins that bloom early in spring are one of the first pollen sources for honeybees. For this reason, the willow tree makes an excellent choice to plant for helping with our declining pollinator population.
Willow bark contains salicin, which is a natural form of aspirin. WIllow bark has been used for thousands of years as a pain reducer and to reduce inflamation. Willow wood is used for cricket bats and Dutch wooden shoes and because the wood is so pliable, it is popular in basket-weaving.
Willow trees prefer a sunny location where the ground stays moist. An area near a pond or stream would be perfect. Some of the most beautiful willow trees are twisted and bent, giving the tree its character, so do not worry much if the tree isn’t perfectly straight, this just adds to its whimsical charm.
*an excerpt from “The History, Uses and Folklore of the Willow Tree” by Melody Rose