The corkscrew willow tree is a tree usually admired during the winter when its crooked and twisting branches can be seen without the leaves hiding them. It is a medium-sized tree, reaching up to about 30 feet in height and 15 feet in width. In the fall, the leaves yellow and drop from the tree, covering the ground with a bright yellow carpet. This willow will also sprout out brightly green catkins in the early spring.
The corkscrew willow tree, Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’ in Latin, has a symmetrical canopy with a smooth outline. It is an upright oval in shape and has a moderate crown density. It grows fast with a fine textured leaf. The leaf is simple with a serrated edge and grows in an alternating pattern. This tree is deciduous and the leaves grow 2 to 4 inches long. The bark is brown to gray and thin.
One of the qualities of the corkscrew willow that allows you to plant it near the coastline is that it is tolerant of salt spray. You can plant it in almost any soil type and it will grow in a shady to sunny setting. The soil requirements are pretty wide-ranging with the exception of soggy soil, though it does prefer moist soil like other willow specimens. This versatility makes it a good tree for many settings that might not be suitable for other trees.
The corkscrew willow tree is a great winter tree for any area that has mostly deciduous trees. It shows off its curly branches against the winter landscape. Bonsai collectors enjoy working with this willow as it conforms well to the harsh pruning. Since it is a willow, it does not work well in urban landscapes for long enough periods as it has a tendency to split where the branches meet the trunk during strong winds or snow loads and is not a long-lived tree.
You can find this tree growing in areas ranging from around the Great Lakes, all down the East Coast to Florida and then inland all across the Midwestern states from Louisiana to Texas and Nevada. Its coverage reaches up to northern Washington State but does not reach along the Pacific coastline or along the northern Rocky Mountain Range.
Pests and Diseases
Typically, diseases do not bother this tree. Occasionally crown gall can infect the trunk at the soil line. Willow scab is a fungus that attacks the leaves, kills them quickly, and then enters the twigs forming cankers. Black canker makes brown spots on the leaves and then "whitish gray lesions with black borders appear on the twigs and stems,” according to Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson. You can correct all of these problems with pruning.