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Common Name: Grey Willow
Salix cinerea is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 5.00 metres tall.
It has medicinal and miscellaneous uses.
Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to France, Siberia and Iran.
Fens etc in E. England, it is often dominant in carr. Occasionally found in damp woods in other areas of England[
Succeeds in most soils, including wet, ill-drained or intermittently flooded soils[
], but prefers a damp, heavy soil in a sunny position[
]. Rarely thrives on chalk[
]. A relatively slow-growing but extremely durable plant when growing in very exposed positions[
Closely related to S. caprea[
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
]. Although the flowers are produced in catkins early in the year, they are pollinated by bees and other insects rather than by the wind[
Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
The fresh bark of all members of this genus contains salicin[
], which probably decomposes into salicylic acid (closely related to aspirin) in the human body[
]. This is used as an anodyne and febrifuge[
The bark of this species is used interchangeably with S. alba. It is taken internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, inflammatory stages of auto-immune diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, feverish illnesses, neuralgia and headache[
]. The bark is removed during the summer and dried for later use[
The leaves are used internally in the treatment of minor feverish illnesses and colic[
]. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season and are used fresh or dried[
Plants have an extensive root system and are used to stabilize waste tips and old slag heaps[
The seeds are very light and so can travel some distance in the wind. The plant is therefore able to find its way to areas such as cleared woodland where the soil has been disturbed. Seedlings will grow away quickly, even in exposed conditions and the plant will provide good shelter for the establishment of woodland plants. Thus it makes a good pioneer species and, except in wetter and moorland-type soils, will eventually be largely out-competed by the other woodland trees. Its main disadvantage as a pioneer plant is that it has an extensive root system and is quite a greedy plant, thus it will not help as much in enriching the soil for the other woodland plants as other pioneer species such as the alders, Alnus species[
Seed - must be surface sown as soon as it is ripe in late spring. It has a very short viability, perhaps as little as a few days.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, late autumn to late winter in a sheltered outdoor bed or planted straight into their permanent position and given a good weed-suppressing mulch. Plant into their permanent positions in the autumn.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, early summer to August in a frame.