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Salix × fragilis

Salix × fragilis nothovar. basfordiana - golden willow ’Basfordiana’

There is a large group of crosses between white willow (S. alba) and crack willow (S. euxina), of which golden willow ‘Basfordiana’ is one, distinguishable from the rest of the group mainly by its yellow-orange branches. The colour is at its brightest in late winter/early spring in the youngest branches, one of the reasons for cutting back hard, producing strongly coloured suckers. If allowed to grow freely golden willow can achieve heights of 25m (80 ft.) with a trunk a metre in diameter.

The species was first discovered by W. Scaling, a basket-weaver in Britain in the 1860s. In Finland, it has been grown at least since the 1920s, often from different sources, and incorrectly called Salix alba ‘Vitellina’. Currently at Mustila, there are three golden willows which differ slightly: in size, in sex, in habit, in leaf shape and in branch colour – and probably in hardiness, too.


Salix × fragilis - hybrid crack willow

This very variable crack willow hybrid is a cross between white willow (S.alba) and crack willow (S. euxina) over many generations, and back-crossings with the parent species. Individual trees vary in habit, in height, in the colour of their shoots and in the shape of their leaves. In fertile moist places they grow into large broad-crowned trees in some ways resembling the oil trees of southern lands.

The luxuriant foliage of this hybrid crack willow is narrow-leaved, shiny and dark green, with a bluish-grey underside. The shoots are usually dark brown but can also be yellow- or red-brown, or even bright red or yellow. They are quite fragile, and if pieces fall into water they can begin to grow roots, producing new trees.

This willow has spread almost wherever people are to be found. In some ways they tolerate man-made environments better than the white willows. The specimen in the Arboretum, when originally planted in 1914, was identified as crack willow (S. fragilis) and is still to be found where Pähkinärinne (Hazelnut Slope) borders on a field. After storm damage it was severely cut back, which gave it a new lease of life with new growth. The two trees growing between the “Piika ja Renki” Café and the main highway are probably slightly younger, and of different origin. They seem to suffer from a fungus which blackens their shoots.


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