willow, common name for some members of the Salicaceae, a family of deciduous trees and shrubs of worldwide distribution, especially abundant from north temperate to arctic areas. The family consists of two genera, Salix and Populus, both of which are propagated easily by cuttings, grow rapidly, and characteristically bear male and female flowers in catkins on separate plants.
Many plants of the narrower-leaved willow genus (Salix) flourish in cold, wet ground; willows grow farther north than any other woody angiosperm (flowering plant). The poplars (genus Populus) usually have heart-shaped or ovate leaves; they include the cottonwoods, aspens, and many species specifically named poplar. The cottonwoods (sometimes also called poplars) characteristically have seeds that are covered with fibrous coats so that when they are released at maturity they clump together in cottony balls. Cottonwoods were a welcome sight to the pioneers pushing westward, for they marked the streams in the otherwise treeless Great Plains. Some of the poplars, especially the aspens, have flattened leaf stalks that permit the pendulous leaves to quiver in the slightest breeze (hence the name quaking aspen). The quaking, or golden, aspen (P. termuloides) is a common deciduous tree of the mountains of the W United States; it is often the first tree to reforest burned-over woodlands. Large stands of aspen trees often consist of one or two clones connected at the roots. The hybrid species Populus × jackii is one of the plants called balm of Gilead.
Because the lumber of this family is so soft it finds little use except for paper pulp (mostly the poplars), for biomass and biofuel, for charcoal, and especially in basketry and wickerwork (mostly the willows). The bushes and their twigs used in basketry are often called osiers. Willow buds and bark have also been used medicinally; the chemical predecessor of aspirin was originally isolated from the bark of a willow. The trees are valuable in erosion control along riverbanks because of their rapid growth. The family is most noted for its many species planted as ornamentals, e.g., the Lombardy poplar (P. nigra cultivar Italica) and the silver, or white, poplar (P. alba), now naturalized in North America from Eurasia; the weeping willow (S. babylonica), indigenous to China; and the pussy willow (S. discolor) of North America with its silky catkins.
Yellow poplar or tulip poplar is a name sometimes used for the unrelated tulip tree of the magnolia family. Willows are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Salicales, family Salicaceae.
WILLOW (Heb. עֲרָבָה, aravah). The Bible describes the willow as a tree that grows rapidly near water (Isa. 44:4) and in whose shade the *Behemoth reclines (Job 40:22). The exiles from Judea hung their harps on willows by the rivers of Babylon, loath "to sing the Lord's song in a foreign land" (Ps. 137:2). The willow is one of the *Four Species and is characterized as possessing "neither taste nor fragrance," thus symbolizing those among Israel "who are neither learned nor possessed of good deeds" (Lev. R. 30:12). Although the identification of the aravah with the willow is undoubted, it should be noted that in the time of the Mishnah philological problems had already arisen in connection with this identification. The amora Ḥisda states that after the destruction of the Temple the name of the aravah (Salix) and ẓafẓafah (poplar, Populus) were interchanged (Shah. 36a), and in fact in Arabic it is the poplar which is called aʾrb (Heb. aravah) and the willow, ẓafẓaf (Heb. ẓafẓafah). The rabbis pointed out the difference between these two genera with regard to validity for the precept of the Four Species: "The willow has a red stalk, an elongated leaf and a smooth [leaf] edge. The ẓafẓafah has a white stalk and a round leaf with a serrated edge" (Suk. 34a). The conclusion finally reached is that the willow with the serrated leaf is also valid (ibid.). The willow was also used during the festival of Tabernacles, the altar being decorated with willow branches which were brought from Moẓa near Jerusalem. There is undoubtedly a connection between the willow growing by the waterside and the prayer for water on Hoshana Rabba, as well as the prayer for rain on Shemini Aẓeret (eighth day of solemn assembly), the last day of Tabernacles, when "they are judged in respect of water" (rh 1:2).
The willow is a very useful tree. Its soft branches were used for wicker work (Bik. 3:8). The wood withstands rot and was therefore used for building boats called arba, the spelling for aravah in Aramaic and Syrian. Its fruit contains soft fibers, which are the petilat ha-idan ("wick of bast"), used as wicks for lamps (Shab. 2:1). Though not a fruit tree, according to the agricultural folklore of the period fruit trees could be grafted on to it (see tj, Or. 1:2, 61a). Two species of willow, the Salix acmophylla and Salix alba, as well as hybrids of both species, grow wild in Israel on the bank of streams and rivers. Another species, Salix babylonica, the weeping willow, originated in China.
Loew, Flora, 3 (1924), 323–37; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 113–5. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 115.
Willow ★★½ 1988 (PG)
Blockbuster fantasy epic combines the story of Moses with “Snow White,” dwarves and all. Willow is the little Nelwyn who finds the lost baby Daikini and is assigned the task of returning her safely to her people. Willow discovers that the girl is actually a sacred infant who is destined to overthrow the evil queen Bavmorda and rule the land. As you might expect from executive producer George Lucas, there is much action and plenty of clever, high-quality special effects. But the “Star Wars”-esque story (by Lucas) is strangely predictable, and a bit too action-packed. Not really for children. 118m/C VHS, DVD . Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Jean Marsh, Joanne Whalley, Billy Barty, Pat Roach, Ruth Greenfield, Patricia Hayes, Gavan O'Herlihy, Kevin Pollak; D: Ron Howard; W: Bob Dolman; C: Adrian Biddle; M: James Horner.
wil·low / ˈwilō/ • n. (also willow tree) a tree or shrub (genus Salix, family Salicaceae) of temperate climates that typically has narrow leaves, bears catkins, and grows near water. Its pliant branches yield osiers for basketry.
willow pattern a conventional design representing a Chinese scene in blue on white pottery, typically showing three figures on a bridge, with a willow tree and two birds above. It was introduced by the English potter Thomas Turner (1749–1809).