Usefulness and services of the tree :
Features and characters of the individual
Facts and stories
Willow trees have always been close to human life: the branches have long been used for feeding livestock, and to make baskets, cradles and bird cages.
Extracts from the tree are also used to relieve fevers and pains. The special properties of willow trees have been known for several centuries. As far back as Ancient Greece, the famous physician Hippocrates was using parts of the tree to create medicines. Its bark contains salicylic acid, which was the precursor of aspirin!
In modern times, our medicine cabinets therefore still contain elements of willow. In recent times, willow branches have been increasingly used in gardens and parks: to weave pretty hedges, to line compost beds, and sometimes even to build huts.
Did you know?
Some willow trees have a ‘weeping’ silhouette, whereby their branches soar straight upwards from the trunk before falling down and hanging at the sides of the tree, often touching the ground. Their elongated leaves often have drops of water hanging off them, so the tree looks like a fountain of tears. Willows are therefore often seen as a symbol of sadness. They are also associated with darkness and death, because of the blackish colour of the bark on older specimens.
Willows possess the sacred power of rebirth though! They can propagate very easily. If you cut off a branch and plant it directly in the soil, it will start growing! This amazing ability can be traced back to a powerful growth hormone.
The benefits of willow trees
Generally, willows are beneficial for biodiversity (especially goat willows and white willows). They often provide shelter for a very rich and diverse range of fauna.
Their strange ‘weeping’ silhouette plays an important role in the urban landscape, with their great curtains of leaves producing large amounts of oxygen.
These trees like humid locations. They draw up a lot of water, which can be very helpful in reducing flooding. They filter the water too, releasing it back into the air. In the summer, this also creates a milder climate and boosts humidity.
How to recognise a weeping willow
medium (5–12cm), shaped like a narrow, elongated spear (lanceolate); fall from the tree in autumn (deciduous)
glossy dark green on top and light undersides in spring; bright yellow in autumn; and no foliage in winter
ochre/brown, smooth, with small diamond-shaped furrows (younger trees); dark, almost black colouring, with criss-crossing grooves and deep crevices (older trees)
Specifics about this tree
This willow is a neighbourhood legend. Its appearance is straight out of a fairy tale. The tree may be uprooted and lying horizontally on the ground, but it wasn’t cut up and removed: luckily it managed to survive whatever spell that was cast on it.
Its leaves shimmer in the sunlight with the slightest of breezes. When some of its branches touch the ground, they take root and start growing again even more beautifully. Some upper branches have also fused together! This tree definitely has a lot of vigour. In 10 years’ time, some of the younger branches that are now growing vertically will become trunks. In the future, this tree could be huge...
Today, it’s common for this kind of fallen tree to be kept in place (as long as it doesn’t present any danger to people), as it serves as a habitat for a rich variety of species. The biodiversity here is incredible: there are many types of insects, birds, and sometimes even some small humans... ;) On top of that, the tree’s shape is truly original; it’s like a great living sculpture. It definitely deserves to be counted as a remarkable tree.
With its welcoming appearance, it has a special place in the hearts of local residents in Ixelles too. The tree’s trunk is ideal for climbing, its large branches are good for an outdoor nap, and the shade that it casts makes it a popular spot for summer picnics. If this tree has a special place in your heart too, try to avoid getting too close to it, as this will help it to live longer.
(Story and photos created by Priscille Cazin- Sylvolutions)
This portrait is:
- Enriched with an illustration from the Belgian Federal State Collection on permanent loan to the Meise Botanical Garden.
- An initiative of Christos Doulkeridis, Mayor of Ixelles , Audrey Lhoest, portfolio holder for Environment, Green Spaces and Planting, and Tourism and the Ixelles Communal executive