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Common Name: Osier
Salix viminalis is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 6.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Europe, incl Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to France through temperate Asia to Japan.
By rivers and streams, also on deep moist alluvial soils, avoiding very acid soils[
Succeeds in most soils, including wet, ill-drained or intermittently flooded soils[
], but prefers a damp, heavy soil in a sunny position[
]. Dislikes heavy shade and dry soils[
]. Rarely thrives on chalk[
]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution[
]. A fast growing tree, it is very wind resistant[
Widely cultivated for basket making, there are many named varieties[
]. Trees are usually coppiced annually for this purpose, they do not respond so well to pollarding. It should be cut back almost to ground level each year when being grown for basket making since this encourages the production of long flexible shoots[
]. In very good conditions plants can put on 4 metres or more of new growth in a year when treated in this way.
A very important food source for the caterpillars of many butterfly species[
], it is also a valuable early pollen source for bees[
]. The plants are rich in insect life[
Best planted into its permanent position as soon as possible[
]. The root system is rather aggressive and can cause problems with drains[
]. Plants are best not grown within 10 metres of buildings.
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.
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 - cooked. Not very palatable[
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 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 annual yield can be around 12 tonnes per hectare, 40% of which is class 1[
The bark contains about 10% tannin[
Often planted along the banks of rivers and lakes to prevent soil erosion[
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.