In Praise of Golden Weeping Willow Trees--Pictures

sprucemanFebruary 24, 2011

Folks:

I post this topic to promote a tree that I think is not planted enough, and which people may not fully appreciate.

This tree is what I usually call a "golden weeping willow." There are a number of different weeping willows out there, the most popular and commonly available being the Babylon weeping willow. The Babylon willow has greenish twigs and does not display the color of the golden weeping willow. I believe, but I am not sure about this, that the Babylon willow needs more soil moisture. The golden weeping willow has good drought tolerance and can grow on medium dry sites. The golden weeping willow is more cold hardy also.

The golden weeping willow commonly goes under these names: Niobe weeping willow, Salix alba �Tristis�, and Salix X sepulchral chrysostom. I cannot testify to the correctness of any of these names. I have also had suspicions that there may be two or more cultivars going under one or more of these names.

This first picture is of one I planted back of my house north of Winchester, VA, showing the autumn color. Trees in Z5 and colder may be frozen before the color develops, but in Z6 the color reaches its peak during the latter part of November.

The color continues in the winter--the golden twigs give the tree a color that lights up the winter landscape for us here.

And in spring the tree has a nice golden bloom.

The pictures above are of a tree that I grew from cuttings of a willow branch I found in a landscaper�s dump.

The next group of pictures are of a mature willow growing in front of the Hampshire High School, just east of Romney, WV. This is a rather large tree, just under 4 feet DBH and close to 65 or 70 feet tall. The first picture is in spring, just after the golden bloom has faded.

This next picture is of the tree in all its summer glory.

And this final picture is looking up into the same tree.

These golden weeping willows are not for people who think trees are "messy." They drop trigs on the lawn that many people consider a bother--I don�t. They grow large, so they need plenty of room. But they are not weak trees and are not especially prone to breakage. This tree near Romney is old enough to have seen many wind and ice storms, and I see no evidence that the tree has ever had any breakage.

If you have a fairly large lot, a golden weeping willow can be a landscape accent in any season that you will never tire of.

--Spruce

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I absolutely love the look, but I don't care for Salix's proclivity for disease. I had to remove two from my yard last year.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 1:37PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

You may be showing more than one kind here. The ones with the strongly yellow shoots are Salix x sepulcralis 'Chrysocoma'.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 2:27PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

They may be underplanted on larger properties with the room for them I agree!

In suburban lots around here they were probably overplanted a few decades back and are now somewhat rare.

In their favor:
Nothing has their look.
Few things have their speed of growth.
Few trees will tolerate the water a weeping willow will.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 2:36PM
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MisterTristern

I'm curious to know, is the reported speed of their growth real? Can they really grow 4-8 feet per year?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:18PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

There are several locally along streams in pastures. This time of year, the yellow twigs are very striking.

I actually have considered planting one a couple of times. there should be enough room in the swamp, and there certainly is enough water. The question is whether or not I want to give up that much real estate to one tree.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 5:02PM
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spruceman

bboy:

Yes, I know. The little ones are from a landscapers dump--I planted small cuttings. The larger one seems to have the same twig coloration, but I can't be sure it is the same cultivar. It seems very similar. I see a fair number of weeping willows here in VA and WV, but very few of what I call "golden" weeping willows. On the 95 mile trip from Winchester to my timberland in far western MD, there are only two examples of what look to me like the "golden" type--maybe there are one or two more small ones. I can't think right now of any in the town of Winchester itself, but I would guess that a search could turn up a few. So while we think of weeping willows as being common, the kind I am trying to promote here are actually fairly rare.

And as for those in my pictures, neither had any name on it. I have seen--once in a while--willows for sale at nurseries that have the kind of golden twigs the trees in my pictures have, but I have no trust in any labels they had on them. At this stage of my tree collecting life, I have lost all faith in labels on things at nurseries, and have lost a considerable degree of faith that anyone really knows which cultivar is which in a large number of cases.

Maybe I should post a close-up picture of some twigs. If they are golden like mine, I think you have something really good. But there are also one or more willows with golden twigs that are not weeping.

Anyway, as I say, I am compeltely ignorant about the origin, varieties, and nomenclature of whatever "golden" weeping willows are out there.

I do know there is a "Prairie Cascade" willow that is weeping and has more or less golden twigs also. I have never seen one, although I am trying to grow one here. Too small to see anything about it yet. Maybe the twigs are a bit more orange, but I need to see it after it is a bit more mature.

Mister Tristern:

Yes, they grow very fast. 8' per year may be possible, but mine have certainly done 5 or 6 feet per year, even here north of Winchester, VA where we have a drought just about every summer. But starting from cuttings, they grow very slowly the first year--they are growing roots, I guess--and then not that much the second year. But after that, stand back!

Brandon:

I don't see any sign of any disease on them around here. Once or twice mine have been nipped back just a bit by a late freeze.

--Spruce

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 7:55PM
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lkz5ia

I've been planting alot of the golden weeping willows by a pond in the last 5 years. My biggest one looks like this last summer.

In the early 2000s, had taken the cuttings off this tree.

It was around 40 years old and 5.5 ft in diameter. Couple years later it was gone.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 1:12PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

I saw a lot of these driving through West Virginia early last Spring.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:35AM
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aegis1000

I bought a golden yellow tree from Franks 5-6 years ago labeled Golden Weeping Willow.

Well, it is golden, ... but its never weeped.

I was had.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:17PM
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Lizzybeth39

We are in Indiana and I've been thinking of planting a Weeping Willow. My parents talk about them all the time from their childhood but we just never see them anymore. I always thought they weren't very strong, is that true? I don't remember ever seeing a Golden one like that. We are in zone 5 but then sometimes it's broke down more and it puts us more in 6a. I never know what to buy because everything has been hybridized so much. How much room does a Willow need to grow? Do you think a Golden would grow well here and would we get to see the beautiful colors. Beautiful pictures by the way.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 8:05PM
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spruceman

Lizzybeth:

For the golden weeping willows like those I have pictured, you need a lot of space--they can get quite large, and fast. In good soil they will typically grow 4 to 6 feet per year, get 70 feet tall, and 40 feet wide.

They also shed twigs, that if you are a lawn "neat freak," can be a problem. I cut my grass relatively high, and the twigs just disappear. Otherwise, they are good for the corner of a lot, etc.

Golden weeping willows are, in fact quite strong. The one near Romney, WV that I pictured above, is probably about 60 years old. The area gets its share of wind and ice storms, and I see no sign of any major breakage. The fact that they weep, helps them survive windstorms--the branches give way in the wind, minimizing damage.

As for the color, maybe you might get less there than I get here. These trees tend to hold their leaves late, so if you get a hard freeze before Thanksgiving, you will miss the best of the fall color. So you may have glorious color one year, and then not much the next, depending. The spring color may work better for you there, but a spring freeze can diminish that also. Nothing can diminish the color of the winter twigs. They light up our landscape here all winter long.

If you have a good spot for one, give it a try. These trees are absolutely glorious. I have planted about 140 kinds of trees here on our 14 acre place here north of Winchester, VA, since 2002. Of course many are too small still to evaluate yet, but so far, our two golden weeping willows are the stars of the whole place!!

--Spruce

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:19PM
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j0nd03

Any reputable online vendors have this for sale?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:27PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Beautiful tree, I'm in awe........

Dax

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 8:31AM
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drrich2(6)

One caveat...like poplars, it's my understanding you don't want a willow anywhere near a septic tank/leach field. I throw this in because a lot of people with big lots are in rural locales with septic tank sewage systems.

Those are some fine looking trees. I wonder how long-lived? (Since some folks on the forum like the idea of 'legacy trees' for future generations to also enjoy).

Richard.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 11:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in the pix.. note that there isnt a house ANYWHERE near these trees..

i will yell...THEY ARE NOT A TREE FOR SUBURBIA

they root like the weeds they are ... if you can track one down.. i dont know why you would want to buy them ...

ken

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 12:23PM
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j0nd03

In my case it is for a pond bank, closest house is >400 feet away. All the online sources I found are .uk I need a US source. Thanks for the concern lol

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 12:31PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Spruceman, you should propagate the Golden Willow.
Mike...on 10 acres. 12 ponds. Some are small.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 12:41PM
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spruceman

Golden weeping willows are not long lived. I don't have any hard data, but I think at 100 yeasrs, or a few years earlier, they will begin to deteriorate. It depends on the site and some other factors.

My favorite "legacy" trees, are the eastern white oak, and the baldcypress. Both of these are underplanted.

I think Oikos Tree Crops has the golden weeping willow, but they offer several other willows, so be sure you get the right one--the second paragraph of my original post includes the names I have seen it sold under.

But if you can find one nearby, you can easily propagate them from cuttings--there are different methods, and I think they all work. Here in the Winchester area there are not many around--most weeping willows are either the Babylon weeping willow, which can be a fine tree also, but I don't like it nearly as much as the golden. And there are one or two other cultivars "out there." If you find one with twigs as golden as those in my pictures, that's the one. Some others have some yellowish, or partially golden colored twigs, but unless the golden hue is strong, and goes back up the twigs for two or three years growth, at least, that's not the one you want.

--spruce

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 2:05PM
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lkz5ia

All the willows I have seen have outlived their usefulness usually by half century, but alot of times alot earlier, depending on hybrid or species. But its still about my favorite genus, right along with populus, because I want to see actual trees I plant get huge, and they produce the fastest results. If all I had was oaks, ginkgoes, and beeches to grow, trees would never have become a passion of mine.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 3:03PM
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thnkfl4plntz(7)

Hey Spruceman, would you happen to have any cuttings of this beautiful tree to trade or for postage? My wife and I have been discussing getting a couple of weeping willows and we have never seen this tree that you're discussing? Please let me know because we would love to have a couple of them. We have a 1 acre lot and no trees. Thanks, Joel.

Here is a link that might be useful: Joel's List

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 12:51AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Out here 'Chrysocoma' 90' wide have been seen. Green weeping willows hardy in the north are not likely to be Salix babylonica, despite repeated use of the name.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 12:18PM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

That tree is absolutely beautiful!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 3:39PM
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spruceman

Joel:

Send me an e-mail and we can discuss how I can best help you.

--spruce

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 8:52PM
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