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Common Name: Crack Willow
Salix fragilis is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 15.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Europe, including Britain, from Sweden south and east to Spain, Serbia and Iran.
Streamsides, marshes, fens and wet woods[
Succeeds in most soils, including wet, ill-drained or intermittently flooded soils,[
] but prefers a deep damp, heavy soil in a sunny position[
]. Rarely thrives on chalk[
]. Succeeds in an exposed position[
Closely allied to S. alba, with which it freely hybridizes[
], though it tolerates poorer soils than that species[
A very important food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly species[
] and a good bee plant, providing an early source of nectar and pollen[
The cultivar 'Basfordiana' is used for basket making[
Best if planted into its permanent position as soon as possible. The root system is rather aggressive and can cause problems with drains[
Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[
Plants are very amenable to coppicing or pollarding and can be cut back annually if required[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Inner bark - raw or cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and then added to cereal flour for use in making bread etc. A very bitter flavour, it is a famine food that is only used when all else fails[
Young shoots - raw or cooked. They are not very palatable[
A saccharine exudation is obtained from the leaves and young branches[
]. Used as a food[
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, astringent 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[
]. A poultice of the bark has been applied to sores as a styptic and healing agent[
]. 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[
Stems are very flexible and are used in basket making[
]. The plant is usually coppiced annually when grown for basket making, though it is possible to coppice it every two years if thick poles are required as uprights.
The bark contains around 10% tannin[
Wood - tough, withstands friction. Used for floors, bases of carts etc[
]. A good quality charcoal is obtained from the wood[
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. Very easy. Plant into their permanent positions in the autumn.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, early summer to August in a frame. Very easy.