Willow trees are in the genus, Salix (a Latin word that means willow). They include 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs located throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The tree we know as Weeping Willow is actually a hybrid of Peking Willow (Salix babylonica), which originated in China, and the White Willow (Salix alba), which originated in Europe. According to N.C. State University Extension, the scientific name for Weeping Willow is correctly given as Salix babylonica.
Where Willow Trees Began and Why They Spread
Although the Peking Willow is native to Peking, China, today you will commonly find its offspring, Weeping Willow, growing throughout the continents of North America, Europe and Asia. This prolific species grows in practically every country in the world.
In ancient times, White Willow trees were a very familiar sight throughout Europe, where they originated. Today, you will still find many varieties of willow growing throughout Europe alongside rivers, creeks and bogs. Willow trees and bark were transported worldwide because of the bark's pain-relieving properties. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, willow bark was used by herbalists to reduce fever and inflammation as far back as the time of Hippocrates in 400 B.C. Willow trees are very cross-fertile and many hybrids occur, both naturally and by human intervention. This is why they are so prolific throughout the world today.
Willow Tree Facts
A very fast-growing deciduous tree, the Weeping Willow is often planted as a shade or ornamental tree. It can grow between eight to ten feet in one year in ideal conditions. It has pendulous weeping branches; a short trunk and a broad rounded crown. It has reddish brown stems in winter. The willow is one of the first trees to bear leaves in the spring and one of the last trees to lose its leaves in the fall. It prefers sun, rather than shade. Willow trees grow naturally along rivers, swamps, and wet lands. They have invasive root systems and are best planted far from underground water pipes or septic systems. The willow is often cultivated to make high quality wood chip, which is a renewable and carbon neutral energy source. According to Arbor Day Foundation, the Weeping Willow reaches 30 to 40 feet tall, with a 35-foot spread at maturity.
Countries in North America
North American countries where willows grow include: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greenland, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America. In the United States, the Weeping Willow tree grows best in USDA hardiness planting zones 5 to 8.
Countries in Asia
You may find Weeping Willows growing anywhere in Asia, especially in China where the Peking Willow was born. Countries in Asia where you may find willows include: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.
Countries in Europe
According to Timberpro.com, Ireland has the most hospitable climate in Europe for the cultivation of Weeping Willow trees. However, this prolific species can and does grow throughout all of Europe. Countries in Europe include: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vatican City.