The species that concerns us today is a shrub or small tree known as Salix atrocinerea , belonging to the Salicaceae family. It is native to Europe and extends throughout the Iberian Peninsula , especially along the Mediterranean and Cantabrian coast, but non-existent in the Balearic archipelago and in the Canary Islands.
Salix atrocinerea is an ideal tree to create shady spaces in any type of garden, planted individually or grouped in sidewalks.
Given its ease of hybridization , it is often easy to mistake one species for another. The hybrids that are known are the following:
- Salix × expectata = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix cantabrica
- Salix × quercifolia = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix caprea
- Salix × guinieri = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix cinerea
- Salix × mairei = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix pedicellata
- Salix × altobracensis = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix bicolor
- Salix × viciosorum = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix purpurea
- Salix × secalliana = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix salviifolia
- Salix × multidentata = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix triandra
- Salix × stipularis = hybrid between Salix atrocinerea and Salix viminalis
CHARACTERISTICS OF SALIX ATROCINEREA
Although it is commonly known by various names such as bardaguera, palera, salgueiro, sarga or zargatera among others, the best known common name is ashen willow , which like its scientific name, Salix (willow) atrocinerea (atro = dark, cinereus = ashen), refers to the appearance of its younger branches and leaves that are covered with a grayish hairiness.
TRUNK AND BRANCHES
The ashy willow is a medium-sized tree that can reach up to 22 meters in height. The trunk is covered by a rough bark of dark brown or gray color.
Its branches are straight and elongated, when they are young they are covered by a grayish hair that they lose as they mature.
Its leaves are deciduous , lanceolate or ovate in shape and somewhat wider towards the apex, they have smooth edges, although some may have wide and little marked teeth.
When they are born, they are covered with hair on both sides and have a velvety appearance , but when they mature they lose their hair on the upper side, turning a dark green color, on the underside they are grayish and with some ferruginous hairs (the color of rust).
Salix atrocinerea , like all of its species, is a dioecious tree , which means that it has both male and female specimens . The flowers are born before the leaves and the bees or the wind are in charge of carrying out the pollination. Both the male and female flowers are very hairy and are arranged in catkins, spike-shaped inflorescences or hanging raceme.
The male ones are ovoid and the female ones cylindrical.
The fruit is a small capsule that, when ripe, opens into two valves and inside are the seeds covered with whitish hairs.
Salix atrocinerea leaves. Photography: www.i-flora.com
MAIN CARES OF SALIX ATROCINEREA
In its natural habitat, it grows on the banks of natural water courses , in wet meadows and in valleys. Salix atrocinerea is a spice that doesn’t mind having its roots waterlogged. It grows healthy in full sun and although it supports being in semi-shade, it needs a lot of light to thrive.
In gardens, care must be taken to plant it away from pipes or buildings since its highly invasive roots could cause damage.
Due to its characteristics, Salix atrocinerea is a specimen that cannot thrive in pots . The ideal soil for its cultivation has to be somewhat acidic and poor in nitrogen.
It is a tree that needs a lot of humidity to grow healthy. In summer it should be watered every 2 days at least, and during the rest of the year every 4 or 5 days.
During the most active season, that is, from the beginning of spring to summer, it is advisable to fertilize the land with organic fertilizers such as manure or guano once a month.
PESTS AND DISEASES OF SALIX ATROCINEREA
Despite being a fairly resistant tree, it can sometimes be affected by insects such as mealybugs and aphids, which feed on the sap and cellular juice of the young stems and leaves. They can be treated with specific insecticides such as potassium soap or sticky traps in the case of aphids.
The diseases that can affect it are those caused by fungi, mainly rust , which affects the leaves by covering them with reddish bumps or powdery mildew that covers the leaves with a white powder.
Both can be treated with preventive fungicides such as sulfur or copper (copper oxychloride ).
There are two ways to get new specimens of one that we already have in our garden.
It is the most complicated , since the seeds have a very short viability. The way to achieve this is to take them directly from the open fruit while it is still on the tree, then we immerse them in water for 24 hours to hydrate them and accelerate their activation.
Next, we will plant them in a seedbed with black peat mixed with perlite that we will always keep moist and leave them in a sunny place until germination.
To do this, we will choose a young branch , no more than one year old and about 30 cm long, from which we will remove about 3 cm of bark at the base that we will impregnate with rooting hormones. Next, we will plant it in a pot with a porous substrate that we will keep moist and protected from direct sun.
USES OF ASHEN WILLOW
Like all willows, Salix atrocinerea is popular for several therapeutic properties . Its bark and its leaves are used in different remedies to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism.
It is also used as an anti-inflammatory in diseases such as gout and dysentery . Its leaves relieve headaches and lower fever. Its thin and flexible branches are highly valued in basketry, and formerly, dowsers used them to locate water wells in the subsoil.
In floristry , the branches of male specimens with their characteristic hairy flowers are highly appreciated in the composition of flower arrangements.