The whole weeping willow tree just glows golden as spring tells nature to wake up.

Native Americans knew for centuries that the bark of any willow could ease pain when chewed. In the Old World, it is recorded that in 400 B.C. Hippocrates, the” father of medicine,” advised the chewing of willow bark to ease the pain of childbirth.

For thousands of years, many people knew the benefit of willow bark but didn’t know why it worked the way it did. It was used to treat headaches, fever and even inflammation.

In 1820 a German doctor and chemist isolated the chemical and it was found to be Salicin. It was developed into acetylasalicylic acid.

A young chemist at Bayer & Company tried it on his arthritic father and named it Aspirin. By 1900, it had found its way into drug stores and has been kind of a wonder drug ever since.

There are over 400 species of willow in the world with three major ones found in New England.

1. Pussy Willow, which this time of year hosts furry white catkins all over its branches. Each plant has both male and female catkins. The male catkin looks like a white cat’s toe close to the branch. The female catkin is a feathery green protrusion about one to two inches long.

Pussy willows are often cut from the bush and used as a table decoration. Using soft colored chalk, I have often colored the catkins to make them even more attractive.

2. The weeping willow is an import to our countryside but it adapts rapidly. A small branch cut from a mature tree and just stuck into moist soil will quickly develop roots and become a tree. They make a beautiful tree that has a couple of drawbacks; one is at least once a year they are very messy, and if planted near your septic system their roots will soon fill any air space in your field or pipes.

3. Then there is black willow that grows along banks of brooks and in other wet spaces. It is very easy to plant using short cuttings. It is very pliable, so basket makers find it great material to use.


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