Although this deciduous shrub or tree is often called Egyptian Willow, it actually comes from temperate areas of Iran (hence another of its common names – Persian Willow), Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Greece. However at one time a perfumed drink was made in Moslem lands, including Egypt, from its male catkins, which were also sugared and eaten as a sweetmeat, and used for perfuming linen.
This willow is quite different to the long slender leaved willows we commonly associate with the Genus. The plants grow to 4-5 metres tall (sometimes up to 10) and are single or multi-stemmed. The leaves can be up to 15 cm long and 6 cm wide and are often wavy with an irregular serrated margin. The underside of the leaf is a light gray-green colour and has small hairs. Young branches are red in colour and felted grey when juvenile, smooth when older. Spikes of white cup-shaped flowers are produced from August to to October. Despite its provenance it is fully frost hardy to zone 6.
Willows can forms a useful component of wastewater treatment systems, soil stabilisation and phytoremediation schemes, as the plants are said to take up heavy metals and other toxic substances. They also produce a huge amount of biomass which can be ‘chopped and dropped’ throughout the season, or put through a wood chipper, in a forest garden or syntropic food forest situation to provide carbon material and mulch for soil improvement in the form of ramial wood chip (RWC). Egyptian willows can be ‘coppiced’ – cut to the ground every year or two, for easy management, producing many new shoots for ramial wood chip. Larger trees are great for firewood.
Willow branches can also be chopped and soaked in water for 24 hours to make a rooting hormone for cuttings. Willows provide excellent bee food in early spring for rearing brood. Also good for chipping for mulch.
Requires a sunny spot and moist soils, and will tolerate very wet soils and periodic flooding. Do not plant near buildings or drains as roots can be invasive.
Certified organic potted plant – please note we do not sell cuttings.
Photo: Kahikatea Farm