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Life in Freshwater

Willows (Salix spp)

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Pussy willow

Grey or Common Willow (Salix cinerea) is a shrub to 6 m with winter twigs which remain velvet and hairy. The leaves are narrow and grey hairy beneath. The twigs when stripped of bark, are finely ridged. Male catkins are yellow, female catkins are green and are both ovoid and up to 5 cm. There are several types of willow, all of which attain heights of 5 - 10 metre. Salix fragilis , the crack willow, may propagate by cracking off branches that, if embed in wet soil, will grow.

The Grey Willow is widespread and throughout Europe . Like all willows they grow best on damp or waterlogged soils.

ECOLOGY: The willows are tolerant of the permanent waterlogging of soils. The Common Willow forms a dense scrub in damp soils and soon restricts the light reaching flowers beneath. The willow has trees of separate of sexes. The male catkin may form a gall caused by a midge, Rhabdophaga heterobia; galls become infected with a fungus that releases a chemical encouraging gall growth. Red Bean Galls on the leaves are of a sawfly larvae, Pontania.

Willow growing on river banks and at the edge of lakes help to stabilise the soil.


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