WILLOW USES

Varieties of willow (genus Salix)  have been growing by some estimates for  70 - 135 million years.  Perfect specimens of  cretaceous honey bees have been found embedded in tree resin from some 90 million ago, and would have thrived on  the nectar and pollen  provided by willow and in turn   pollinated and supported these ancient  plants.  Managed as a utility material for centuries  willow  grows in almost all parts of the  world and now some 1500 hybrids and cultivars of willows  grow with  significant variations in  size, form, bark, leaf and rod color

If you are new to willows, you will discover  a great deal of excellent information online  addressing the history, cultivation and use of this unique species.

Some of  those uses  are listed  below.

 

Willow Uses

Willows can be  managed in such a way as to produce long straight un-branched rods  for utility use. Willow rods can also be split into splints or skeins. Larger rods  can be stripped of their bark.  Such materials have typically  and  historically been used to make various forms of basketry, with great artistry, skill and ingenuity.  However there are other uses, some of which are listed below. 

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CATKINS - Some willows develop flowers ( catkins) before their leaves and provide nectar and pollen for bees when little else is available, attracting bees & insects into orchards and fields.  The catkins are often used as cut flowers. Silver pussy willows are traditional, but there are pink, black, gray, pussy willows.

LANDSCAPING Coppiced plants often have  stunning  winter color. Pussy willows provide beauty in the garden and in the home. Willows are very easy to  propagate & many varieties are extremely hardy and have significant environmental  and landscape value.

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BIOMASS   Varieties of willow are grown for wood chipping - energy source - producing biomass superior to many other crops. 

 

There is also a new interest in willows as an alternative crop useful in changing and repairing landscapes ... phyoremediation- fueling a renewed interest in breeding new varieties of willows and supporting extensive new cultivation.
 

 

 

LAND RECLAMATION / SOIL IMPROVEMENT   Some willow varieties due to their root structure, growing habit, and nutrient uptake are very useful in improving lands that have been  disturbed and damaged, and are used to address issues of waste management and soil remediation.

RIVERBANK AND SLOPE STABILIZATION   Various willow varieties have extensive root systems  that are very helpful in holding soil that is in danger of  washing away.

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BUILDING CONSTRUCTION  Historically willows have been used to construct quick  and ready shelter and there is some renewed interest in wattle and daub  construction, in various parts of the world.

WINDBREAK, SHELTER BELTS SNOW FENCING & NOISE BARRIERS-  Living willow walls can be built along  open country, roads freeways, river ways  to provide various types of barricades and are very durable and easy to maintain.

SCULPTURES  Willows are used in a  creative and unique art form using long pliable un-branched  willow rods to shape and make  sculptural forms

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ANIMAL FODDER   Some varieties of willow have been used as food  for ruminants and horses.

WILDLIFE HABITAT  Willows  in all their various stages of growth and decay, excel in proving a lifeline to a host  of wildlife.

ANIMAL SHELTERS AND GAME COVER  Living willow construction lends itself to the ready provision of overhead protection from animals from predators. 


 

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LIVING WILLOW STRUCTURES  Willows are used as a unique and ready use of  easily propagated  living rods ( 7 ' and up) to create domes tunnels, mazes, arbors all manner of structures that will leaf out and grow as placed.

GARDEN STRUCTURES  Willows provide a readily available sustainable source of dried rods for wattle fencing, arbors, gates, plants supports, bean poles, fence extenders

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BOATS  In the past willows were used to make coracles, a simple flat bottomed boat well utilized for it shallow draft and lightness.

PAPER  Craft  paper is made  from woody bast collected from stripping willow bark

CHARCOAL FOR ARTISTS  Specialty companies, boil strip and fire willow into a unique artist charcoal.

MEDICINAL USES  Willow has been used historically to reduce fever and pain.

 

FURNITURE   Furniture made from heavier willow is beautiful and enjoys a new popularity. 

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