Sal willow

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Sal willow
Salix caprea 036.jpg

Sal willow ( Salix caprea )

Eurosiden I
Order : Malpighiales (Malpighiales)
Family : Willow family (Salicaceae)
Genre : Willows ( Salix )
Type : Sal willow
Scientific name
Salix caprea

The Salweide ( Salix caprea ), outdated spelling Saalweide , preferred by botanists with the hyphen spelling as Sal-Weide , is a species of the willow genus ( Salix ) within the willow family (Salicaceae). Due to its early flowering from the beginning of March, the willow is an important first forage plant for insects such as honey bees , but also a popular spring decoration in the house. It is also known under the names hanging willow , palm willow and kitten willow . It is also known regionally under the name Palm Catkins - the bundles of willow twigs and other trees that are used for the custom on Palm Sunday also bear this name.

About the name

Illustration of the Salweide 1546 in Hieronymus Bock's book of herbs

In the 15th century Paris Physica manuscript attributed to Hildegard von Bingen , the willow tree is called “salewida”. The German name Salweide comes from the Old High German salaha , which is derived from a (linguistically developed) adjective with the meaning "gray" or "dark". Hieronymus Bock referred to the Salweide in 1546 as "rope pasture". The Latin addition caprea reminds that goats like to nibble on the leaves .

Distribution and location

The sallow willow grows in the Palearctic region in most of Europe (missing only in southern Spain and the southern Balkans) across western and central Asia to eastern Asia ( Manchuria , North Korea and northern Japan). The distribution includes the north of Anatolia and the Caucasus. The southern limit of distribution in Asia is north of the Altai and roughly follows the Mongolian border. The distribution in the north reaches the northernmost Scandinavia, the Kola peninsula and from there the island Sakhalin and the southern Kuril Islands , with isolated outposts to the north, such as Kamchatka . The European to Central Asian and the East Asian distribution areas are probably separated from each other by a distribution gap in Siberia east of Lake Baikal.

In contrast to many of its relatives, the willow always thrives outside of floodplains and swamps in fresh, nutrient-rich locations. As a pioneer plant , it grows on fallow land , rubble heaps and in clearcuts on loamy and stony raw soil . It is a characteristic of the Epilobio-Salicetum capreae from the association of the pre-forest societies of the Sambuco-Salicion capreae and initiates the first phase of natural forest development alongside the birch .


Growth habit and bark

The Salweide reaches heights of growth between 2 and 10 meters, in suitable locations up to 15 meters. The average age is given as 60 years. Its relatively wide treetop is characteristic. The bark of the young trunks is gray in color with diamond-shaped cork warts. In older specimens, the gray to black-brown bark shows diamond-shaped cracks that are regularly arranged in rows. In contrast to broken willow, the twigs, which are not brittle, are initially gray-green in color and hairy. They bald with age and take on a reddish or blackish color.

Buds and leaves

The yellow to red-brown, oval, tapering buds of the common willow are arranged in a spiral. A single closed bud scale, which can be pulled off like a cap, covers the bud. At first the leaf buds are somewhat hairy, later they become bald.

The richly shaped leaves of the common willow only unfold after the flowering period and are arranged alternately. They are between 5 and 7 cm long and between 2.5 and 4 cm wide. They are widest in the middle of the leaf or just below it. The mostly round-elliptical leaves are irregularly notched, serrated or unevenly cusped and end in a short blunt or slightly twisted tip. Young leaves are somewhat hairy on the upper side of the leaf. In the course of the leaf development, the short hairs fall off, whereby the dark green and often somewhat glossy leaf surface with sunken yellow leaf veins becomes clearly recognizable. The blue to gray-green underside of the leaf has permanent white felty and dense hair, under which the veins clearly emerge. The leaf stalks are up to 2 cm long. At the base of leaf blades, small, semi-kidney-shaped form Nebenblätter from.

Inflorescences and fruits

Before the leaves shoot between March and April, the unisexual inflorescences of the common willow , the so-called pussy willow , develop . Like almost all types of willow, the common willow is dioecious and dioecious , which means that either only female or exclusively male flowers are formed on a tree. The flowers of both sexes stand together in an upright catalytic inflorescence. The approximately 2 mm long bracts of the flowers are two-colored: black below and silvery-white above and long bearded hairs at the tip. Therefore, both the female and male kittens appear furry when young. Only in the course of their development do short flower stalks form. The inconspicuous single flowers do not have an envelope. The oval to broad oval male kittens reach a length of 1.5 to 2.5 cm in length and about 1.5 cm in width. The individual flowers, which smell pleasantly of honey, each have two stamens with about 6 to 8 mm long stamens and ellipsoidal, yellow anthers . There are two nectar glands at the base of the flower . After flowering, the male catkins fall off. The short, cylindrical female catkins are green-blooded. Each flower has a long-stalked, dense, silvery hairy, upper ovary . This consists of two fused carpels and contains a fruit compartment. There are two nectar glands at the base of the ovary. The ovary is in a very short stylus over the two to the middle of two-part scar complete. The two scars stand upright and lie close together. The female inflorescences are 2 cm high and about 0.8 to 1 cm wide. They stretch during flowering and reach a length of 6 cm and a width of 1.8 cm at the time of fruiting.

From May to June dry, green, multi-seeded capsule fruits ripen . The two-column, hinged capsule is up to 9 mm long.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 38 or 76.


  • Salix × erdingeri core. : Salix daphnoides ( ripe willow ) × Salix caprea
  • Salix × flueggeana Willd. : Salix eleagnos ( Lavender Willow ) × Salix caprea
  • Reichardt willow ( Salix × reichardtii core. ): Salix cinerea ( ash willow ) × Salix caprea
  • Kübler willow ( Salix × smithiana Willd. ): Salix viminalis ( osier ) × Salix caprea
  • Bastard-ear willow ( Salix × capreola core. ): Salix aurita ( ear willow ) × Salix caprea
  • Salix × wimmeriana Gren. : Salix purpurea ( purple willow ) × Salix caprea


The flowers of the wild willow are pollinated by insects . The diaspores spread through the wind. The downy, hairy seeds hang together on their hair tops, so that they form white balls of seeds that can be spread over great distances by the wind. The ability to germinate is given immediately after ripening, but is lost relatively quickly.

Sallow willows - unlike most other willow species - can hardly be propagated by cuttings.

The kittens of the sallow willow are the first important food for bees of the year. Early-flying butterfly species such as the lemon butterfly , small fox and peacock butterfly also appreciate the nutritious nectar in early spring.

It also provides food for many beetles such as the willow leaf beetle ( Chrysomela ) because they eat their leaves. The musk buck ( Aromia moschata ) feeds on the sap of the wild willow.

The wild willow serves as a cover bush and for grazing game .

The importance of the willow as a butterfly plant

Together with the oak, the willow is the most important plant for the local butterfly fauna . Almost one hundred species feed on the common willow, either as a forage shrub for the caterpillars or as a nutrient plant for the adult imago . Especially in early spring it is an important source of food for the overwintered butterflies. Of particular importance are the young shrubs that have not yet grown too high along forest edges and paths, as the butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on them. For reasons of biodiversity (species diversity), clearing of these shrubs should therefore be avoided.

The following selection of species can only reflect a small overview of the moths that depend on the common willow in one way or another (e.g. as a caterpillar forage plant). The information on endangerment corresponds to the requirements of the Red List of Endangered Species (Binot et al. 1998), as well as the German Federal Species Protection Ordinance, and is explained in the key below. Species protection in Austria is a matter for the federal states and varies from federal state to federal state, which is why no precise information is given here. However, the Red List and the German Federal Species Protection Ordinance can also be used as a benchmark for Austria. Some species that are classified as endangered and are even more common locally have, however, declined so much in the majority of their range in recent decades that the remaining populations must be preserved in any case, which can best be achieved through appropriate habitat maintenance.

Hazard key:

- (no information about a hazard)

S (rarely, risk likely)

V (on warning list - outside the red list)

§ ( specially protected according to the Federal Species Protection Ordinance in Germany)

RL3 (endangered)

RL2 (endangered)

RL1 (critically endangered)

RL0 (extinct or lost)

The common willow in tradition

Easter bush made from catfish branches, embroidered Easter eggs, cross stitch, Pfaffing, Upper Bavaria, 2016

In many areas, kitten branches are cut on Palm Sunday or Maundy Thursday. These are placed in a vase at home and decorated with blown out and brightly painted eggs on Holy Saturday.

To protect the house and its residents from adversity, palm branches are still attached to the crucifix in the Herrgottswinkel , to mirrors or to images of saints. Some farmers used to mark the four corners of their fields with palm branches to protect their fields from the ravages of the grain spirit .

Flowering catkins are still today - often in addition to holly and juniper branches, flowering hazel branches and box branches, evergreens and oak branches with previous year's leaves - part of the so-called palm bushes. Three branches of one species are attached one after the other to a long bare (palm) stick with colored ribbons. This is carried in a procession - mostly by children - to the church on Palm Sunday and consecrated there.


The bark of the willow tree is used in tannery . The wood is used to make stakes. It is propagated by beekeepers and especially planted in apiaries in order to provide the colonies with sufficient pollen in the spring. The pollen and nectar value is classified as the highest level 4 from mid-March to the end of April.

Single references

  1. Hildegard von Bingen (12th century) Physica III / 36: Wida ; Physica III / 37: Salewida. --- Edition: Charles Victor Daremberg and Friedrich Anton Reuss (1810–1868). S. Hildegardis Abbatissae Subtilitatum Diversarum Naturarum Creaturarum Libri Novem. Migne, Paris 1855. Sp. 1239–1240 ( digitized version http: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A10801026_00624~SZ%3D~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D) based on the Paris manuscript. Liber beate Hildegardis subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum et sic de aliis quam multis bonis. Paris. Bibliothèque Nationale. Codex 6952 f. 156-232. Complete handwriting. 15th century (1425-1450).
  2. Elmar Seebold: Chronological Dictionary of German Vocabulary Volume 1: The vocabulary of the 8th century (and earlier sources). De Gruyter Verlag, 2001. ISBN 978-3-11-016962-1 . on p. 247.
  3. ^ Matthias Lexer. Middle High German dictionary "sal" (digitized)
  4. Hieronymus Bock . Kreüter Bůch. Wendel Rihel, Strasbourg 1546, part III, chapter 60 (sheet 53r): Weiden / Felbinger. ... To the Vierdten / the rope willows with the ash-colored bark and leaves / every year for the first time in the spring bring the grows ketzlin ... ( digitalisathttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A11200232_00867~SZ%3D~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D )
  5. Alexei K. Skvortsov: Willows of Russia and Adjacent Countries. Taxonomical and Geographical Revision. - Joensuu: University of Joensuu, 1999. - 307 pp. translated from Russian by Irina N. Kadis. (orig .: Proceedings of the Study of the Fauna and Flora of the USSR, published by Moscow Society of Naturalists, New Series, Section of Botany, 15 (XXIII) Nauka, Moscow 1968.)
  6. a b Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas . 8th edition. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 . Page 308.
  7. The wild willow as a butterfly food plant at Floraweb
  8. Hieronymus Bock . Kreüter Bůch. Wendel Rihel, Strasbourg 1546, part III, chapter 60 (sheet 53r): Weiden / Felbinger. … To the fourth / the rope willows with the ash-colored bark and leaves / so annually for the first time in the spring the grows bring ketzlin / and for a number of those the palm trees / for the thunderstorm / are consecrated. ... ( digitized versionhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A11200232_00867~SZ%3D~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D )
  9. Info bee pasture

Sources and further information


  • Kurt Harz: Trees and Shrubs , BLV-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8354-0242-3
  • Seidel, Eisenreich: The BLV Photo Plant Guide. 440 native plant species according to flower colors , BLV-Verlag, 1997, ISBN 978-3-405-15148-5
  • W. Rothmaler, EJ Jäger, K. Werner: Excursion flora from Germany , 2. Vascular plants. Grundband, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8274-1600-1
  • Matthias Zander, Astrid Schilling, Brigitte Schröter, Olaf Koch, Harald Schill: Weiden in Nordrhein-Westfalen Contributions to Characterization, Gene Conservation, Propagation and Identification , 2001, available online ( PDF ), accessed on April 16, 2007
  • Salweide ( Salix caprea ), article by BUND Schleswig-Holstein (PDF; 144 kB), available online , accessed on April 27, 2010
  • Sybil Countess Schönfeldt : Festivals and Customs through the Year , Urania, 1999, ISBN 3-332-01026-3
  • Heiko Bellmann : The new Kosmos butterfly guide. Butterflies, caterpillars and forage plants. 2nd Edition. Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-440-11965-5 .

Web links

Commons : Sal-willow ( Salix caprea )  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sal-Weide  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations