Willow

Latin name: Salix spp., Salix alba, Salix fragilis, Salix purpurea, Salix viminalis

 

Also known as: Saule (France), Wilg (Netherlands), Weide (Germany), White willow, common willow (UK), Crack willow, Cricket bat willow, close-bark willow (UK)


Wood Type:

Hardwood

Durability:

Not durable

Treatability:

Difficult

Moisture Movement:

Medium

Density (mean, Kg/m³):

450

Texture:

Fine

Availability:

Limited availability at specialist timber merchant

Price:

Medium

Use(s):

Tool handles, Furniture

Colour(s):

Pink/pale red (Pinkish white)

Notes on terms used navigation-arrow

Environmental

Not listed in CITES. Believed available from well-managed sources. Check certification status with suppliers.

 

Distribution

Europe, including the British Isles, western Asia and North Africa. The following are the main species found in these areas.

  • Salix alba L produces the white willow or common willow (UK), found in the British Isles, and in Europe, Asia, and North Africa.
  • Salix fragilis L produces the crack willow, found in the British Isles, Europe and north Asia.
  • Salix alba L cultivar calva G. Mayer produces the cricket bat willow or close-bark willow (UK) found in the British Isles, Europe, Asia and North Africa.
  • Many species of the genus Salix are either pollarded, or are cut down low and induced to send out long slender shoots known as osiers, used for basket and wicker-work, but only two species are botanically recognised as osiers, Salix purpurea L the purple osier, and S. viminalis L. the common osier, the former being found in Europe, including Britain, and in central Asia, the latter being common to Europe and Britain, and Asia generally.

 

The tree

Willows will generally reach a height of 21 m to 27m and a diameter of about 1 m. When allowed to grow naturally they will branch at about 4m to 8m from the ground, but they are frequently pollarded at about 2.5m high or grown as coppice. Willows grown for cricket bats are felled at about 0.5m diameter, and are grown along the banks of streams in wet soil; in fact all willows are fond of moist, acid soils.

 

The timber

The sapwood is white and the heartwood pinkish in colour, and very similar to poplar in appearance. The sapwood varies in width according to species and growth conditions, and growth is generally rapid, the growth-rings appearing on longitudinal surfaces as faint zones caused by parenchyma marking each season's growth. The wood is typically straight grained with a fine, even texture, and is comparatively light in weight, about 450 kg/m³ for the white and crack willow, with cricket bat willow varying from 340 kg/m³ to 420 kg/m³.

 

Drying

Willow dries fairly rapidly but often retains pockets of moisture. Degrade is minimal.

 

Strength

Although light in weight and soft, willow is a tough timber, being only about 15 per cent inferior to ash in this respect. In general strength properties it resembles poplar, but is some 20 per cent harder on side grain, 20 per cent more resistant to tangential splitting, and less stiff.

 

Working qualities

Good - Willow of all species works easily with both hand and machine tools, although there is a tendency for woolliness, and sharp tools are required in order to obtain the best results. Crack willow tends to split badly during conversion, a characteristic not necessarily associated with the common name; crack willow is so-called because its shoots, which grow obliquely and frequently cross each other, readily break off if struck at the base; hence the description, and the botanical name, fragilis. Willows can be glued satisfactory, and give good results with the usual finishing treatments.