Willow, Babylon Weeping

Willow, Babylon WeepingWillow, Babylon Weeping — Salix babylonica (Peking Willow or Babylon Willow) is a species of willow native to dry areas of northern China, but cultivated for millennia elsewhere in Asia, being traded along the silk road to southwest Asia and Europe.

It is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree, growing up to 20-25 m tall. It grows rapidly, but has a short lifespan. The shoots are yellowish-brown, with small buds. The leaves are spirally arranged, narrow, light green, 4-16 cm long and 0.5-2 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin and a long acuminate tip; they turn a gold-yellow in autumn. The flowers are catkins produced early in the spring; it is dioecious, with the male and female catkins on separate trees.

Many botanists, notably the Russian willow expert Alexei Konstantinovich Skvortsov, treat the Chinese Willow Salix matsudana as a synonym of Salix babylonica; it is also native to northern China. The only reported difference between the two is that S. matsudana has two nectaries in each female flower, whereas S. babylonica has only one; however this character is variable in many willows (e.g. Crack Willow Salix fragilis can have either one or two), so even this difference may mean nothing.

Peking Willow is a popular ornamental tree in northern China, and is also grown for wood production and shelterbelts there, being particularly important around the oases of the Gobi Desert to protect agricultural land from desert winds.

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