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Useful Temperate Plants

Salix repens

L.

Salicaceae


The genus Salix, as recognised in 2019, is comprised of probably more than 300 distinct species (over 500 if you also accept hybrid species). Many of these species are very similar, sometimes being separated as much by native range as by any other characteristic. Hybridization between species is common, when this is coupled with the high genetic and morphological variability within many species, and different levels of ploidy, the complexity of this genus is clear.
Misidentification of specimens is not rare, even amongst botanists, and many records of plant use will often equally apply to one or more related species that were not seen as distinct when the report was made. Equally, several species not included in the database will be found to have a range of these uses. In general, all species in the genus have medicinal uses, especially as antiinflammatories, analgesics and febrifuges, they can all serve as emergency foods, many of them have flexible stems and can be used in basket making, and many of them can be planted in moist to wet conditions in order to stabilize the soil and improve wildlife habitats.

+ Synonyms

Salix adscendens Sm.

Salix ambigua microphylla Schultz

Salix angustifolia Wulfen

Salix arenaria L.

Salix argentea Dum.Cours.

Salix decumbens Schleich. ex J.Forbes

Salix fusca L.

Salix incubacea L.

Salix laeta Schultz

Salix litoralis Host

Salix parvifolia Sm.

Salix pratensis Host

Salix subalpina Schleich. ex J.Forbes

Salix tenuis Host

Salix versicolor J.Forbes

Vimen parvifolia Raf.

Vimen repens (L.) Raf.

Common Name: Creeping Willow

No Image.

General Information

Salix repens is a low-growing, deciduous shrub with a mostly buried trunk; the prostrate stems can be 25 - 50cm long, rooting as they grow. The plant is usually 5 - 15cm tall, occasionally to 40cm[
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
]. Though stems can reach 180cm in cultivation[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. It is planted on dunes in order to stabilize them and is sometimes grown as an ornamental[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
74
Title
Flora of the USSR.
Publication
 
Author
Komarov. V. L.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Israel Program for Scientific Translation
Year
1968
ISBN
-
Description
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Europe - Norway through Britain to Portugal, east to Russia, Ukraine and the Balkans

Habitat

Wet heaths and moorlands[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitDeciduous Shrub
Height1.00 m
PollinatorsBees, Insects
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Salix repens is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -30°c when fully dormant.
Salix species generally require an open position and abhor dryness at the roots. Whilst many can be found in wet or boggy soils, and prefer a damp, heavy soil, most will grow well in a range of moist but well-drained soils so long as they are fairly deep. Very few are at home in chalky soils[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
1212
Title
New Trees
Publication
 
Author
Grimshaw J.; Bayton R.; Wilks H.
Publisher
Kew Publishing; London
Year
2009
ISBN
1842461737
Description
Provides comprehensive botanical descriptions and horticultural commentary on over 800 tree species that have been introduced to cultivation in recent decades.
].
A polymorphic plant, there are many sub-species and cultivars[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
The flowers are dioecious, male and female flowers being produced on separate plants. If seed is required then at least one plant of each sex need to be growing in reasonable proximity[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Hybridization in the genus is common, especially when species are brought together in cultivation[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Salix species are unusual in as much as, although they produce their flowers in catkins, these are insect rather than wind pollinated. Indeed, the flowers of many species are excellent sources of nectar for bees and other insects, especially valuable are those species that flower early in the growing season[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
The roots of Salix species are often vigorous and extensive and can range some distance from the plant. Several species are known to cause problems by growing into drains and drainage systems as their roots seek out moisture[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Species in this genus are often notably susceptible to honey fungus[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

Growing in harsh and difficult environments, as many willows do (they can be found within the arctic circle, on mountains and even in the desert), Salix species have often been utilized as an emergency food source. They are, indeed, often a highly favoured food source for birds and mammals and, whilst few species would lay claim to culinary excellence for humans, the young shoots and inner bark are both edible eaten either raw or cooked[
172
Title
Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
Publication
 
Author
Schofield. J. J.
Publisher
Alaska Northwest Books; Alaska
Year
2003
ISBN
0882403699
Description
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
].
We have no specific information for this species, but the inner bark can be eaten fresh or it can be dried, ground into a powder and then added to cereal flour for use in making bread etc. It has a very bitter flavour, The young shoots are also somewhat bitter and not very appetizing - unless you are really hungry of course![
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Medicinal

The bark, twigs, leaves, leaf buds, and flower buds of all Salix species contain phenolic glycosides, particularly salicin and salicortin (which breaks down when the plant material is damaged to produce salicin). The quantity of these compounds can vary greatly between species, and even within geographical races of the same species. Taste is a simple test to ascertain levels of these compounds - the more bitter the flavour, the more compounds it contains[
407
Title
BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database)
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://bodd.cf.ac.uk/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Brief notes on a very wide range of plants that have reports of causing harm to the skin.
].
Salicin has several valuable medicinal properties. In particular it is an effective antiinflammatory and pain reliever, and is also a valuable febrifuge[
407
Title
BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database)
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://bodd.cf.ac.uk/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Brief notes on a very wide range of plants that have reports of causing harm to the skin.
].
Modern medicine has used salicin as a pathway to producing the common pain reliever aspirin and, until a totally synthetic pathway of producing the medicine was discovered, several Salix species were harvested on a commercial basis to obtain salicin.
Many Salix species have a history of traditional use (not always documented). All parts of the plant can be used, but the bark is more commonly employed. Their pain-relieving and antiinflammatory properties make them useful in the treatment of verious conditions including headaches, neuralgia and joint pains, whilst they can also be very helpful in the treatment of fevers[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
407
Title
BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database)
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://bodd.cf.ac.uk/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Brief notes on a very wide range of plants that have reports of causing harm to the skin.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

An admirable ground cover plant[
182
Title
Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7195-5043-2
Description
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
].
The plants extensive root system also makes it a good soil stabilizer on sand dunes[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. The sub-species Salix repens argentea is the form best used for this[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
]. The plant is also used for stabilizing old waste tips and slag heaps[
199
Title
Willows - The Genus Salix.
Publication
 
Author
Newsholme. C.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0713468815
Description
A very readable book on the genus.
].

Other Uses

The bark contains about 10% tannin[
223
Title
Vegetable Tannins
Publication
 
Author
Rottsieper. E.H.W.
Publisher
The Forestal Land, Timber and Railways Co. Ltd.
Year
1946
ISBN
-
Description
A fairly detailed treatise on the major sources of vegetable tannins.
].

The stems are sometimes used in basket making[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].

Propagation

Willow seed is very small and light, and has a very short viability, perhaps as little as a few days in some species. It must be surface sown as soon as it is ripe. In nature the seed only germinates in disturbed soils in an open situation. In nursery conditions, sow the seed in a tray in a moderately sunny position and keep the soil moist. Germination is usually quite rapid - prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on until large enough to plant out. Plants generally establish better if planted out whilst quite small.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth or older can root at almost any time of the year, though late autumn is considered best as this produces a better balance of root and stem growth the following spring[
1212
Title
New Trees
Publication
 
Author
Grimshaw J.; Bayton R.; Wilks H.
Publisher
Kew Publishing; London
Year
2009
ISBN
1842461737
Description
Provides comprehensive botanical descriptions and horticultural commentary on over 800 tree species that have been introduced to cultivation in recent decades.
]. Plant them in a sheltered outdoor nursery bed or straight into their permanent position and give them a good weed-suppressing mulch. Most species are very easy. Plant into their permanent positions in the following autumn.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, early to mid summer in a frame. Very easy.
Division of suckers[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2022-10-07. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Salix+repens>

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