Size and growth rate of Salix 'prairie cascade'?

dirtslinger2(6)September 19, 2007

I read here somewhere that this willow grows quite large. I just looked up the two species that hybridized to produce "PC" and both are small tree/shrubs.

Does this one really grow rapidly into a large tree?


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beng(z6 western MD)

Dirtslinger, that hybrid may not have been around long enough yet to say how big it gets 30 yrs down the road. But it is a regular WW crossed w/a smaller willow -- Bay willow. So the result should be somewhat smaller.

I'm just guessing, but it might end up 1/2 to 2/3 the size of regular WWs, which is still, say, 40' x 40' in 20-30 yrs. Mine's only 4 seasons in the ground, but it is growing a bit slower & more upright than regular WWs.

Still, not a tree for small yards or anywhere near septic lines.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 8:31AM
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I've planted several Prairie Cascades and OMG it's the healthiest fastest-growing most vibrant robust wild tree in my yard (out of 300+ baby trees)!

The biggest one, only in the ground 1 year 9 months (planted December 2005 and was a little dying stick at that time) is HUGE already, with a trunk bigger than a man's body and it must be over 20' tall now, throwing out big branches and big glossy leaves daily. It has bright golden bark in winter.

Planted it in the most waterlogged swamped hole in the yard. It gets a lot of water, by a stream in winter. All my prairie cascades got the giant willow aphid recently -- caught it about a day after they swarmed and squirted them with soapy water and they all disappeared, but will have to watch for them the next 3 years in August.

I've planted a lot of varieties of willows in my yard to suck up the water and the Prairie Cascade is the most spectacular, although the smithiana rootstock has shot up and thickened an amazing amount this summer. The babylonicas are starting to really grow now too.

If the Prairie Cascades keep growing at this rate they will be GIANT trees. I can't even get a good picture of them anymore because I can't back away far enough to get it all in the frame -- too many other trees blocking the view.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 12:38PM
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Here's a picture of the big prairie cascade taken 5/26/07 -- this past May -- and it is now at least 2X bigger than this "old" picture. Will have to try to get more pictures.

Turns out there's 4 prairie cascades in this yard, 2 from December 2005 that are getting enormous and 2 tiny ones planted end of last September that have grown tall in the creeklets this summer.

Got the 2 tiny ones (no longer tiny) from

Here's a picture of the giant willow aphids on that prairie's new branches which glom onto 1-3 year old willows and have to be sprayed off -- soapy water worked and so did just the garden hose.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 1:38PM
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"Prairie Cascade Willow Salix pentaphyllum 'Prairie Cascade'
A fast growing hybrid willow from Morden Research Station in Manitoba. A smaller form of willow, Prairie Cascade has golden-yellow stems and glossy leaves and is more disease and insect resistant. Its smaller size (35-45') makes it a good choice for those of us who want a weeping willow, but have smaller yards with less space. One of the best landscape willows. Can be limbed up real easy to form a straight trunk. Average growth rate of 3-5 ft. per year. I like this selection better than the "zippy" Australian clones because the foliage is darker and much more dense. Hardiness -40 °F."
"his is a weeping deciduous tree, 35'-45' tall and wide, with yellowish-brown shoots. Leaves are elliptic, very shiny, medium green above, up to 5" long. 'Prairie Cascade' is a hybrid of S. pentandra x S.'Blanda', and does not bear catkins. A beautiful specimen by water, but don't plant this tree anywhere near a septic system or its lines or you and the Roto-Rooter man will know each other on a first name basis."
"Weeping growth habit with fine textured branches. Bright yellow color of young stems.

Height: 50-70'
Width: 30-50'
Hardiness Zone: 3b

Weeping Willows are large round to wide-spreading trees with slender, pendulous branches. New shoots are yellow to yellow-green in color. Leaves are very narrow and 2-4" long. Foliage emerges very early in the spring and remains on the tree late into the fall. They grow very rapidly. Because of their size and pendulous habit, they are best used only on large properties. Willows hybridize readily and their precise identification can be quite confusing.
Requirements and Culture:
Not demanding of site conditions. Prefer ample moisture and are often found along waterways. Branches break readily so pruning and clean up is frequently required.

Tree size and form and brittle branches limit usefulness on small properties.

Species and Selected Cultivars:
S. alba `Tristis' - is the common Golden Weeping Willow. It is a large tree. Sometimes sold as `Niobe'.

`Prairie Cascade' - was developed at the Experiment Station in Morden, Manitoba Canada. It is a hybrid combining the form of the Weeping Willow with the glossy foliage of the Laurel Willow."
"Salix hybrid 'Prairie Cascade' (Prairie Cascade Willow)

Native Habitat / Origin. 'Prairie Cascade' is a hybrid resulting from a cross between Salix alba var. tristis (for the weeping habit) and Salix pentandra (for cold hardiness). Developed and introduced by Wilbert Ronald at the Agriculture Canada Research Centre, Morden, Manitoba in 1981.
Hardiness zone. Zone 3a.
Shade tolerance. Relatively intolerant.
Habit and size. Medium tree, 12 to 15 m tall and wide, round, with cascading, pendulous branches, less so in winter. It grows as a multi-stemmed plant. Fast growth rate. Medium-fine texture in winter; medium to medium-fine texture in summer.
Leaves. Leaves are shiny, dark green, alternate, simple, elliptic-lanceolate to ovate, acuminate tips, rounded base, serrulate margins.
Flowers. Female clone. Flowers occur in catkins, borne on short, leafy, axillary shoots. Not very showy. Fruits are small capsules that split into two halves when mature to reveal hairy seeds.
Culture. 'Prairie Cascade' has grown well at the University of Manitoba through difficult winters and with no supplementary irrigation.
Landscape value. Valued for its yellow twigs and cascading form, given that weeping willows are not generally hardy enough for the prairies. It is useful for large properties, parks, and golf courses. Willows have extensive root systems and are not usually recommended for residential properties. May suffer winter die-back."

Prairie Cascade is a hybrid resulting from a cross between Salix alba var. tristis and Salix pentandra.

Mine is not weeping yet but shooting straight up up and far away high up there.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 2:01PM
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Thanks both of you.

I find it hard to believe your willow grew to the size of a mans body, plus 20' in 2 years... are you kidding?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 8:43PM
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Not kidding. The one in the SE corner is huge. The other planted at the same time, same size, immediately got a freeze crack at the top and split far down and so is stunted and compensating with a strange shape. The one in the SE corner is in an extremely wet spot but still got dry between waterings this summer. It gets the most sun of all the willows here.

These willows were little sticks we bought at Evans Farm Labor Day sale for $5 each 2005, 12 at that sale. They put them in their "hold" area but we weren't able to get the land ready for planting until the end of December. so they sat along with a bunch of other stuff for all those months without much watering. They were practically dead when we finally did plant them, and the next day the temperature plunged to 11 degrees in the yard for 3 weeks. Everything we had, since we had added 1000s of yards of dirt and horse manure that was relatively warm to the below-freezing temp, got huge freeze splits and almost everything got drastic die-back. Goodbye leaders.

Somehow that corner Prairie Cascade survived the experience relatively unscathed, at least not cracked all the way down. Down in the photo pile are pictures of when we first planted in a sea of mud and I'll take those to Costco and get them on a CD and post some before and after pictures -- truly astounding.

That scoparia grew all last winter, even sans leaves -- we'd watch the brilliant golden branches elongate in the cold dark winter days, even when it snowed. Had 2 babylonicas do that also last winter.

Was going to take more pictures today when the fog cleared but it never really did and some clouds came over so maybe tomorrow there will be more light for pictures.

Planted way too many trees, 300+ in here so it's getting hard to get a picture of any one, they're all sort of melting into this big thicket. The birds are ecstatic!

Frank the Eucalyptus Man was here last week and he's seen the yard from the beginning and he was blown away by the willows. Some of his eucs have really shot up too.

Unfortunately we've also lost a lot of trees. It's been an expensive learning curve.

When you see the before, during, and now pictures you'll see how much growth in just 1 year 9 months. It must be the water here and the prodigious amount of bird guano fertilizing everything. Also I think the birds being so happy and numerous flitting all over the trees makes the trees happy and stronger. And I talk to the trees all day and play them gorgeous music, classical masterpieces and joyous mantra chanting, the best recordings.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 12:29AM
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tallohiofarmboy(z5 OHIO)


I'm landscaping around my pond (2 acres), I've already planted a traditional Weeping Willow: Salix alba 'Niobe' (commonly sold as 'Tristis'/babylonica). It's a beautiful tree with yellow stems and a strongly weeping habit, but; as it ages, I'm aware it will become messy and prone to pests. Prairie Cascade was bred specifically to avoid most of the willow problems.

So, I'm interested in 'Prairie Cascade' for future plantings around my pond. I know that the yellow branches compare favorably with 'Niobe', the summer foliage is superior, but what about the form? All the photos I've seen of the Prairie Cascade show pendulous branches, not strongly weeping ones. Even your photos show branches that do not sweep the ground.

Since you have both species, Cascadians, how would you compare them?

Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 5:16PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Golden weeping willow, Niobe willow willow is Salix x sepulcralis 'Chrysocoma'. Its synonyms include

S. alba 'Tristis' of gardens, and not S. alba var. tristis
S. alba 'Vitellina Pendula Nova'
S. alba 'Aurea Pendula'
S. 'Niobe (Weeping)'
S. lutea of gardens
S. babylonica 'Aurea'
S. x chrysocoma

On suitable sites it becomes a large tree - more than 60' tall and wide - producing curtains of drooping metallic yellow stems. Huge dimensions have been claimed for specimens in Michigan.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 8:31PM
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The Prairie Cascade does not weep until it is a few years old, and then its luxuriant growth weighs down the thick branches so it hangs. So far mine wants to shoot up high and straight but some branches are hanging due to weight. The form is more pleasing, more perky, far more robust. This is a full lively tree with beautiful leaves, branches, trunk, colors, and form.

My Prairie Cascades will not be a good example of eventual form because I'll have to prune them and shape them to fit this overcrowded swamp arboretum. They do take well to pruning. They are healthier by far than the Salix babylonica (green weeping willow) or curly or any of the varieties in my swamp except the smithianas.

The Prairie Cascades seem to get thick strong branches fast, bright golden in winter. None of mine have had any brittleness or breaking branches. No mess at all except the giant willow aphids in August which have to be hosed off (easy elimination). And that plague supposedly only lasts the 1st 3 years on young trees.

For 2 acres around a pond I'd plant at least 3 Prairie Cascades and varieties of other willows (violet is gorgeous) and any dawn redwoods and bald cypress that are hardy enough for your area. Variety is wonderful. Willows shade baby evergreens so they can grow from babyhood without getting scorched by the sun and drying out and shriveling in hot dry weather.

In winter when all the deciduous leaves have dropped, a liberal planting of rich evergreens brings a person happily through the winter without the bleakness of a mostly deciduous landscape. With 2 acres I'd be thrilled to plant trees with pronounced winter interest also.

It's fun to plant trees and shrubs that birds like; makes working and sitting in and staring at the land very enjoyable and entertaining. Birds like wild sweet cherry trees and lots of water and cover. The birds here roost in the Prairie Cascades. Very popular tree! Oaks are magnificent trees that are friendly to wildlife and an awesome investment to plant.

If I could do it all over again I'd definitely plan my yard and install a timed excellent comprehensive irrigation system first. The watering I have to do in late spring / all summer takes up all my time. Still in the first-3-years establishment period so this will lessen but there's always droughts and an irrigation system is such a wise necessary investment.

Have fun with your 2 acres / pond and please post pictures through the years of its progress!

Here's some pictures on the Web of an adolescent:

Mine have brighter golden branches and much larger thicker greener leaves than that picture.

Here's a good list of trees that like water, hardy:

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 8:48AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Yes, like cascadians says, it'll grow erect stems for some yrs, gradually bending over, splaying out & becoming more weeping the longer they get.

The original S. babylonica begins its stem weeping almost immediately.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 12:30PM
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tallohiofarmboy(z5 OHIO)

Thank you for all the information, I really appreciate your help.

I want to be sure I express the fact that I WANT the strongly weeping form of the Niobe Weeping Willow (Salix x sepulcralis 'Chrysocoma'). So, if the Prairie Cascades Willow will eventually match that gracefull appearance over a few years, then I'll be happy. If the Prairie Cascades merely mimics the form to a degree, then I'll stick with the Niobe Weeping Willow. Does anyone know where I can find a photo of a mature Prairie Cascades Willow on the internet?

Thank you again,


    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 3:40PM
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Oh, they'll weep for sure, with a few years. The leaves are so huge and glossy, lustrous, those golden branches can't stay upright. My 2 big ones, planted late Dec05 so now almost 2 years 7 months in the ground, are about 1/2 weeping today. They were dead desiccated little sticks when planted. They like a lot of water, more than the curly or babylonica.

You can't go wrong with this tree unless you put it in a dry place. The best picture of a mature one came with the tag on my dead little stick from the nursery. It is a grand broad thick weeping graceful robust tree.

Is there one in the ground for a few years near you that you can visit?

You have lots of land so can plant lots of variety and enjoy it.

Mine are getting quite a bit of shade and tolerate shade better than the other willows also. I'll be pruning the other willows back strongly this winter and making air room for the Prairie Cascades to shine dominant. These trees are spectacular. HEALTHY looking.

Of course also plant Niobes. Then in a few years come back to this thread and tell us with pictures which you like best.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 5:59PM
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I am curious if anyone has had septic system problems with the tree. I recently planted a 10' Prairie Cascade Willow and it is approximately 25' from the far end of my furthest lateral line.....think I will have any issues in the years to come?????

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 8:58AM
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