Salix babylonica, commonly referred to as the weeping willow tree, is an iconic tree that is easily identifiable by its long sweeping branches. Weeping willows have strong root systems that can spread out below ground in search of water. In some cases this can cause problems, such as interference with water and sewage lines. For this reason care should be taken before planting them around homes. However, these trees are often used as a shade tree in parks and around water reservoirs.
Salix babylonica is a deciduous tree that can grow 30 to 40 feet tall and 35 feet wide. Weeping willows are highly recognizable by their long branches, which often sweep the ground. These trees also feature narrow lance-shaped leaves. In addition, the weeping willow tree will produce a light brown cluster of "valve-like capsules" that contain cottony seeds in the late spring.
According to the Arbor Day Federation, an organization dedicated to trees, the weeping willow grows in hardiness zones 6 through 8 and will adapt to a variety of soil They prefer full sun. Although weeping willow trees grow well around water, they are somewhat drought-tolerant.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, weeping willows should not be planted near underground water, sewer lines or close to septic tank drain fields. The Forest Service says weeping willow roots are aggressive and the can cause damage to these water sources. These roots are so aggressive they can even damage sidewalks. In addition, these trees need room to grow. "Locate Weeping Willow only where there is adequate space for its large, imposing form," the Forest Service says.
Weeping willows were once used by Native Americans as a basic pain reliever. "The young twigs and bark was chewed to relieve headaches," the Forest Service says. "It was later found the active ingredient was salicylic acid, the basis of today's aspirin."
Pests and Disease
One of the most common pests associated with weeping willow trees is the gypsy moth. Other pests include scales, borers and aphids. The weeping willow is associated with diseases such as root rot, black canker, powdery mildew and rust and tar spots. The Forestry Service says these issues do not generally cause long-term health issues.