Image - A weeping willow tree

Willow (Salix; Ukrainian: verba). A shrub or tree of the family Salicaceae, valued for ornamentation, shade, timber, and erosion control. Pussy willow, the male form of several shrubby species, has woolly catkins that harbinger the coming of spring. In Ukraine pussy willow branches are used on Palm Sunday instead of palm fronds. At least 30 species of willow are found in Ukraine, where they grow along riverbanks and canal banks, road ditches, and dam slopes. Willow wood is light and soft; it rots easily. It is used for making hand-carved articles, cores for veneers, furniture, barrels, boxes, crates, and some musical instruments, including the bandura. Twigs of the common or silky osier (S. viminalis) are used for basket weaving and fence construction. In unforested areas willow is used as a construction material. Goats and sheep feed on the leafy branches of young willows. The bark is used in tanning leather. The hybrids with droopy branches are called weeping willows (S. babylonica). Certain willows are the source of salicylic acid, used in the manufacture of pain relievers.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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