What Is the Importance of the Weeping Willow?


The weeping willow is a fast-growing shade tree used for ornamental purposes in the landscape. Its soft limbs droop or hang downward and brush against the ground. The canopy of this deciduous tree is left unpruned for a natural look or trimmed to resemble an inverted umbrella to provide ample shade below. This tree is important for a number of reasons.

Historical Significance

The weeping willow has historical importance because it provided Napoleon, the historic emperor of France a peaceful place during his exile at St. Helena. According to the website ArborDay.org, his worldwide admirers prized cuttings or sprigs of the weeping willow, his favorite tree, after his death.

Medicinal Properties

Weeping willows are of great medicinal value. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the use of willow bark dates back to centuries ago, when patients with fever and inflammation were asked to chew on it for relief. The bark was used for centuries in Europe and China, and continues to be used today to cure low back pain, headaches and osteoarthritis. It also treats inflammatory conditions like tendinitis and bursitis. The salicin acid present in the bark of white willow was used in the production of anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin in the 1800s. Although recent studies show white willow bark to relieve pain slower than aspirin, the results last longer.

Fast Growth Habits

The weeping willow is a fast-growing tree that increases in height to up to 10 feet every year. These beautiful trees grow 40 to 50 feet tall at maturity, with width of up to 35 feet. Homeowners and landscapers looking for immediate color and beauty should consider planting the weeping willow to receive the benefits of a mature tree, such as aesthetics and shade quickly.

Ornamental Plantings

Weeping willows are primarily used as ornamental accents because these trees enhance the beauty of the surrounding area with their shape and form. According to the website ArborDay.org, this refined and graceful tree features light green leaves with gray undersides. The tree also produces tiny yellow flowers in spring to early summer that spruce up the area.

Artistic Impressions

Native to China, the weeping willow was naturalized in parts of the United States and Europe to become a staple tree. Chinese traders carried willow cuttings to the new setting along trade routes and planted these there. Romantic paintings and portraits depicting English countryside scenes feature weeping willow trees in the background. Literary references to this ornamental tree are common to those times. The tree symbolizes leisure and grace in both Western and Eastern cultures due to its branches that dance lazily in a light breeze of the outdoor setting.

Multiple Uses

Weeping willows produce tannin, a compound that tans leather. Young, pliable branches are easily woven into baskets, while the lumber from these trees is used for furniture and bats.

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About this Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written hundreds of thousands of words for various online and print sources. She has an MBA in Marketing but her passion lies in giving her words wings.