Willow trees’ booming stage begins in February in warm areas, and it continues until June in colder climates. The trees’ long, tube-shaped blossom clusters called catkins produce their appearance just before leaves reappear on the branches. The flower clusters are full of nectar, which insects continue for pollination. Within 45 to 60 days after pollination, willow seeds are ripe and ready to begin another reproduction cycle.
Willow trees are characterized by long, narrow, pointed, slightly serrated leaves that are yellow green on the top and also have a white or light-green underside. Leaf color changes within the yellow-green range according to species. Most varieties are deciduous. All willows are dioecious, producing female or male catkins on separate trees. Willow seeds are from fruits located just on the female trees. The trees begin to reproduce by airborne seeds after 10 years. They grow quickly and live 55 to 70 years.
Willow trees with springtime bloom patterns include pussy willow, weeping willow and black willow. Salix caprea, also known as pussy willow, great sallow and goat willow, produces bright-white, slightly fuzzy blossoms on the male trees. The catkin flowers are 1 to 2 inches long, and each blossom is composed of numerous hairlike protrusions. The blossoms mature to yellow until they are disbursed by rain or wind. Both weeping willows and black willows have yellow, tubular-shaped blossoms. Black willow flowers open and float away, looking like white mist, even when they are pollinated.
The optimum age for a willow tree to reproduce is 25 to 75 years old. Willows produce large volumes of seeds each spring after the blooming phase. Seed capsules are light brown. At maturity, the capsules split open and release tiny, green seeds. Each fertilized seed has long, silky hairs that act as wings, allowing the seed to travel a long distance before falling to the ground. Willow seeds are distributed widely by water and wind. Each seed has a 12- to 24-hour time period in which to land and germinate. The seeds germinate best in quite moist soil conditions. Willow tree roots are propagated easily through cuttings. Roots form shallow networks near the ground.
The genus Willow (Silax) contains 90 varieties widely distributed across the eastern portion of america. Black willows, Scouler or mountain willows and Hooker willows are varieties often found in american U.S. zones. Willow trees adapt to many soil conditions but prefer a moist environment. They’re cultivated for erosion control since their extensive interlocking root systems form a barrier against water. Some non-native willow species are identified from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service as invasive plants due to their vigorously spreading root systems that overwhelm native vegetation. In traditional cultures, willow trees are valued as an early source of pollen for bees, as an excellent weaving material and for use in seasonal ceremonial practices.