How did the weeping willow tree get its name

Willow tree symbolism and significance

Trees have a rich history of symbolism across different continents and cultures. They’ve long played a part in our lives and stories. Different types of trees also have their own meaning, depending on where they grow and the tales that have been woven around them over the years. Often, religious or spiritual symbolism has been bestowed upon particular species of tree. In this article, we look at willow tree symbolism — its meanings, history, and significance across various cultures.

Willow tree meanings

A large tree with long, flowing branches and leaves, the willow tree often symbolizes flexibility and adaptability. The limber and supple nature of its extremities means it bends to accommodate and withstand strong winds and adverse weather. Many, therefore, see it as inspiring and symbolic of humans’ capability to withstand hardship, loss, and difficult emotions. Thanks to its long life and the ease with which new trees can be rooted from cuttings, the willow tree is also seen as a survivor and a symbol of rebirth.

The willow tree originates from China, and in Ancient China, people believed that willow branches could ward off evil. They were often carried around or placed at doorways to keep evil spirits away. The concept of the willow tree bringing good luck and protecting against evil is also prevalent in countless cultures across the world.

Weeping willow meaning

The willow tree is sometimes referred to as the “weeping willow.” This name comes from the way raindrops run down its long leaves, making it look like the tree is crying. The weeping willow is therefore associated with grief and mourning in many cultures. It’s common to find weeping willow trees in graveyards in Asian countries, particularly China. The willow tree is also featured in Asian folk tales and art, often in relation to loss and mourning.

The weeping willow is also associated with grief and mourning in Western countries, including the US. It is common to find these trees engraved on tombstones. However, it not only has somber associations — but the tree is also associated with immortality and rebirth and can therefore symbolize the endurance of love and family despite death.

Willow tree spiritual meanings

The willow tree grows in many places around the world. As such, it is a part of the writings and beliefs of various religions.

What do willow trees symbolize in the Bible?

The willow tree is mentioned several times in the Bible. Psalm 137 states, "There on the willow trees, we hung up our harps." The verse is written from the perspective of Jews who were being held captive in Babylon and are fondly remembering their homeland. Here, the willow tree symbol represents both loss and hope. 

Another reference to the willow is made in Ezekiel 17:5. The prophet plants a seed and “sets it like a willow tree.” This makes reference to the willow tree’s long-held symbolism of rebirth and vitality. In Leviticus 23:40, the willow is portrayed as celebratory, with believers being told to bring “willows of the brook” as a festival offering.

What does the willow tree mean in Native American culture?

Native Americans have always had a strong connection with nature. The willow tree was often said to bring good luck — it was common for them to tie willow branches to their boats to protect them from bad weather and to their homes to protect the Great Spirit.

Willow tree symbolism in Celtic and European folklore

The willow tree symbol is a prominent feature in many European folklores, particularly in Celtic/Druid beliefs. In fact, this is where the famous phrase “knock on wood” came from — people believed that the willow tree brought good luck, and they would knock on its trunk to bring good fortune. The sound of the wind blowing through a willow tree’s leaves was also said to be elves whispering to one another.

The symbol of the willow in Ancient Greek mythology

Willow branches also brought protection in Ancient Greek mythology, although willow also symbolized power in general. Orpheus, the bringer of song, carried willow wood with him to protect against evil in the underworld. Hecate, the malevolent Goddess of witchcraft, also used a wand made out of willow. Willow is connected to music in Greek mythology — the harp that Apollo gifted Orpheus was made of willow wood.

Willow tree symbolism in literature and pop culture

A ubiquitous tree, the willow has often been cited and written about in cultural works. From Desdemona’s “Willow Song” in Shakespeare’s Othello to Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas and the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter, the willow tree has long inspired writers and been used to symbolize love, loss, wisdom, and power.

The magic of trees

Being able to trace the symbolism of trees like the willow, which still exist today, is a wondrous way to help us feel connected with our ancestors, as well as cultures around the world. Realizing that for thousands of years, people have looked at willow trees practically identical to those we see now and remembering that they experienced the same emotions of love and loss helps us feel connected to our fellow humans now and then. In this way, it’s not only the longevity of a single willow tree but the permanence of the trees in our world, that serve as a reminder of endurance and perpetuity.

Read more: Memorial celebrations around the world

Weeping Willow

The Weeping Willow

(Salix Babylonica)

Interesting Information About Plant:


     The Weeping Willow tree is a native of the extra-tropical Asia and belongs to the group the Crack Willows. This oriental tree’s bark owns mainly all of the medicinal and tanning properties of the willow group. It has been long known in China and Turkey that the Weeping Willow is known its tearful symbolism, used in some places as a cemetery ornament signifying an association of grief for the loved one in the grave. In the ancient times the torches used in funerals were made precisely by Willow wood. It could have been a tree of ill omen as well as in ancient Babylon it is said the soothsayers predicted the death of Alexander the Great deriving from the fact that it was the Willow that swept the crown from his head as he was crossing the Euphrates river in a boat.  

Scientific Name: Salix Babylonica

Family Name (Scientific and Common): Salicaceae

Continent of Origin: China

Plant Growth Habit: Tree

Height at Maturity: More than 10 Feet

Life Span: Perennial

Seasonal Habit: Deciduous Perennial

Growth Habitat: Full Sun

Manner of Culture: Native Species 

Thorns on Younger Stem: No

Cross Section of Younger Stem: Roundish

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter: More Than The Diameter of a Coffee-Mug 

Produces Brownish Bark: Yes

Bark Peeling in Many Areas: Yes 

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: Bumpy

Type of Leaf: Flat, Thin Leaf

Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Between the Length of a Credit Card and a Writing-Pen  

Leaf Complexity: Simple 

Edge of Leaf: Smooth 

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate

Leaf has Petiole: Yes 

Patterns of Main-Veins on Leaf (or Leaflet): Pinnate   

Leaf Hairiness: No Hairs

Color of Foliage in Summer: Green  

Change in Color of Foliage in October: Changes to Yellow 

FLowering Season: Spring 

Flowers: Single 

Type of Flower: Like a Grass Flower 

Color of Flower: Yellow   

Shape of Individual Flower: Radially symmetrical

Size of Individual Flower: Smaller than a Quarter  

Sexuality: Male and Female on Same Plant

Size of Fruit: Between a Quarter and the Length of a Credit Card

Fruit Fleshiness: Fleshy 

Shape of Fruit: Long Pod  

Color of Fruit at Maturity: Brown or Dry

Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels: Yes   

Common Name(s): Weeping Willow   

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One: The Weeping Cherry, others in the Weeping family

Unique Morphological Features of Plant: Sad droopy look of the braches hanging down, “Crying” of the tree when it rains (rain drops travel from the branches to the ends of the leaves and fall to the ground)

Poisonous: None of Plant

Pestiness (weedy, hard to control): Yes  


Page prepared by: 


Russell Miller                                                        

 November 2004

description, photo.

Why willows cry

image of willow

Since ancient times willow ( willow ) was a sign of the coming of spring. Among the ancient Slavs, it was considered sacred and symbolized the constancy of life cycles.

Among different peoples, willow was a symbol of purity and immortality, beauty and refinement, and at the same time was associated with sadness. In the myths of ancient Greece, Willow has always been associated with the world of the dead.

Among the Indians of South America, Willow personified friendship and hospitality. When guests appeared, the bark of this glorious tree was added to the peace pipe.

name of Willow

The Latin name of Willow is Salix. From the Latin words sal - water, lix - close.

In Russia, Iva is known under the names Willow, Vine, Vetla.

Iva's cognates are found in many languages. The word is quite ancient, so there are several theories about its origin.

One of the versions of the origin is that the word comes from the verb vit. After all, in the old days from Iva, peasants brought a huge amount of valuable things. And in our time, Willow is an excellent raw material for wicker furniture.

According to another version, the word came from ancient languages ​​and meant "reddish wood".

Where the Willow grows

There are about 550 species of Willow, and they are concentrated mainly in the northern hemisphere. Siberia, northern China, northern Europe, northern America are places where this tree can be found.

Willow is widespread in the middle part of Russia.

The tree can be up to 15 meters high, but there are species over 35 meters with a trunk girth of more than half a meter.

Willow is very fond of humidity , so this large spreading tree or its smaller species can often be found near the banks of rivers and lakes.

Like garlands, green branches hang from the banks and gently touch the surface of the water.

What Willow looks like

In Russia, there are a huge number of willow species, however, the most famous is weeping . It was she who often became the hero of many fairy tales, poems and stories in Russian folklore.

The height of this tree is up to 25 meters. The bark is silvery gray. The crown is spreading, slightly transparent and transmits light well. The branches are thin and graceful, like the curves of the trunk.

When willow blossoms

Willow buds appear in winter. Red-yellow and brown shoots are the first sign of the awakening of spring.

In April, when the snow has not yet melted, the buds begin to glow yellow. Early bees, flies and butterflies rush to the feast. After all, these flowers are excellent sources of honey.

Medicinal properties of Willow

Willow bark decoction relieves rheumatic pains, and is also used in the treatment of colds and fever.

Willow bark is rich in tannins, therefore it is used in the manufacture of medicines with disinfectant and antipyretic properties. In addition, the bark has a diuretic and diaphoretic effect.

Salicin (Latin for "willow") is also obtained from the bark of this tree. Salicin is the basis of aspirin.

Willow bark preparations also have hemostatic properties. In inflammatory processes of the skin and abscesses, an ointment from crushed bark and a fatty base is used.

In case of thrombophlebitis, foot baths are taken from Willow decoction.

Dandruff, itching, hair loss - troubles that a decoction of Burdock and Willow bark can deal with.

However, willow decoctions should not be abused due to the large amount of tannins in its bark.

Willow Application

Willow is of great importance for agriculture and plays an important role in replenishing natural resources.

Willow is used as a barrier plantation, creating its own microclimate for plantings and a protective area from the winds.

In poor and depleted soil areas, Willow often becomes a pioneer and improves soil conditions for other plants. Fallen willow leaves improves the composition of substances. It is for these reasons that the cultivation of Willow is one of the techniques for improving forestry.

As a fast growing tree, Willow is an excellent source of material. Some species are able to produce an annual crop.

Willow rods are used in the manufacture of wicker furniture, baskets and other household items. The ease of replenishing these resources saves the forces of nature and makes it possible to preserve valuable forest plantations.

Woodworkers use willow bark in wood staining to imitate more expensive and valuable wood.

Interesting facts

In folk medicine, willow has been and remains a natural remedy for malaria, as it is a valuable source of quinine.

Willow is a very hardy plant and grows even in the most impoverished and scorched areas.

Willow is a very ancient plant. This is evidenced by deposits of the Cretaceous formation.

Weeping Willow gets its name from the fact that it can literally cry. When near bodies of water, willow roots are often submerged in water. Excess fluid from the leaves and bark of the willow is removed through the leaves.

The article uses illustrations from the authors: W oodmen19 , apply3, baralgin68, kirill.batalow, mikhailprau (Yandex. Photos)

Weeping willow: photo, types, description, planting and care

  • September 9, 2018
  • Trees and shrubs
  • Reseda Zaripova

Many have seen a fairly large tree growing near ponds and rivers in areas with a temperate climate. Such a plant feels great in the wild and tolerates frost and heat well. This is a weeping willow - a tree, the cultivation of which at home is simple due to the unpretentiousness of the plant to care for. It looks great in recreation areas, parks and even on the territory of the adjacent plot.

General information

Willows - deciduous shrubs and trees. Their varieties may differ from each other in some external features. In total, there are approximately 600 species in the genus "Willow".

Willow is one of those plants that is familiar to many. Most people know it by such names as willow, willow, vine, willow. Most often it is found in the middle part of Russia. Favorite habitats are wet areas.

On fertile moist soils, in places well lit by the sun, the tree grows quite quickly. Among them, there are separate varieties that feel great in the swamps. Shrubs can sometimes be found even in such forests, in which they act as an admixture to different types of trees.

General description of the tree

Weeping willow is a fairly large plant, reaching a height of 15 meters, has a straight, even trunk and a wide pyramidal crown. Its young thin shoots have a yellowish-olive color. At first they are slightly pubescent, then become naked, acquiring a brownish color. Leaves narrowly lanceolate, long, pointed.

Characteristics of willow - transparent and transparent crown, thin and flexible shoots with narrow, elongated and pointed leaves. Most of the trees are quite tall (up to 15 meters), but there are also 40-meter and completely dwarf trees. The plant can live up to 100 years.

In landscape design, weeping willow is an original and interesting solution. Among cultivated plants, one can also find trees with powerful trunks and ornamental shrubs. The difference between varieties is associated with adaptation to life in a variety of climatic conditions.

Below is a brief description of some varieties of weeping willow: photo, description.

Goat willow

This is a large, fast-growing tree (up to 12 meters high, up to 6 meters wide) with a rounded crown and a short trunk. Vertical branches have lateral shoots raised up and outstretched. Goat willow leaves are slightly pubescent, rounded or wide elliptical, painted green above, gray below.

The honey-scented flowers are silvery yellow. Goat willow with age (after 20 years) becomes brittle. This variety of weeping willow (see photo in the article above) grows naturally in Central Asia and Europe. Reproduction usually occurs by seeds, and decorative forms - by grafting.

Brittle willow

A fairly fast growing tree reaching a height of up to 15 meters and a width of up to 8 meters. Sometimes the brittle willow has two trunks, acquiring a curved shape. Its crown is asymmetrical and openwork. Long leaves are elongated, lanceolate. They are green on the top and bluish on the bottom. In autumn, the leaves turn greenish-yellow.

Green-yellow flowers of this variety of weeping willow (pictured below) bloom in May. Willow brittle shoots are yellow or brownish, brittle and glossy, and easy to root. The plant is quite winter hardy. Under natural conditions, willow grows in territories from Europe to Asia.

Brittle willow is spherical in the cultivar called Bullata. The width of its crown reaches 15 meters, the height is 20. It is dense and has a beautiful even shape. The bare shoots are painted olive green, dark green elongated leaves are located mainly in the upper part of the crown, making the tree look quite original and attractive. This form of the plant is widely used to decorate hedges, and to create beautiful compositions with large and tall ornamental trees. Willow is resistant to winds and frosts and is unpretentious in care.

Matsuda Willow

Widespread in China and Korea, the plant grows up to 13 meters in height. The crown is wide-pyramidal, the trunk is even. Young thin shoots are straight, pubescent, yellow-olive. Then they become naked and brown. The leaves of Matsuda are long, pointed and narrowly lanceolate. The plant is photophilous, prefers moist soils. It grows rapidly, propagated by lignified cuttings.

This variety of weeping willow has a decorative form with beautiful green shoots. It grows as a small shrub with curved serpentine shoots. This plant has a rather beautiful openwork crown, which can perfectly decorate any park area or garden plot. It occurs naturally in Korea and China.

Creeping willow

Weeping variety "Armando" in the form of a trunk is grown in nurseries. In spring, the fluffy inflorescences of this variety are silver-pink woolly scales that look great. Then, when yellow anthers are already formed, the willow becomes different. A feature in the care of this plant is that after flowering, the shrub must be severely cut off for the appearance of young shoots.

The leaves of "Armando" are green, shiny, gray-green on the underside, but sometimes also with a blue tint. Round, small, few yellow inflorescences appear on the bush before the leaves bloom. This variety of weeping willow (the photo is presented in the article) is suitable for growing both in the garden and on the balcony in a container.

In the standard form there is a creeping form of Argentea. This is a tiny, very beautiful weeping tree.

Purple willow

In nature, it can be found in the Central part of Europe and Central Asia. This type of weeping willow tree is large, growing up to 10 meters in height. The shape of the purple willow can be different - dome-shaped, funnel-shaped, umbrella-shaped. Densely growing shoots take root easily. The narrowly lanceolate leaves are green above and bluish below. In autumn they turn yellow.

Reddish and slightly crooked flowers with a pleasant aroma. Then, as the plant grows, they turn yellow. The root system is quite deep. Purple willow is hardy and tolerates pruning well.

White weeping willow

This large plant reaches a height of 25 meters and a width of 15. The bark of a powerful trunk has a gray tint. At first, the crown has a narrow columnar shape, then it becomes sprawling, wide and rounded. The main shoots are raised up, and the side shoots hang down a little. The leaves of this willow have a silvery-gray hue when blooming, then they become gray-green.

Pleasantly fragrant yellow flowers bloom at the end of April. White willow grows well in partial shade. It occurs naturally throughout Europe. The plant is winter-hardy.

This variety of weeping willow (photo can be seen in the article) has a Pendula form, which is distinguished not only by its beautiful crown, but also by shoots that have an unusual bark color: red-brown in summer, yellow in spring. And its light green leaves are quite decorative - pointed and narrow.

Shaggy willow

This is a low shrub (0.5-2 meters) that attracts attention with silvery leaves of the original shape in the form of an ellipse. They are covered with silky hairs. In addition, the shoots have a silvery fluff (a photo of the tree and leaves of the weeping willow can be seen below). Delicate yellow flowers during flowering look like original candles pointing upwards.

The plant is frost resistant, loves moist and fertile soil. Often gardeners use it to design a garden plot with a small artificial reservoir. This willow looks very impressive in various compositions, with its location in the lower tier.

Hakuro Nishiki Willow

This willow is full-leaved. Hacuro-nishiki is a hemispherical shrub or small tree with branches hanging down. Thin flexible shoots are painted in an olive and purple-red hue. Beautiful pink and white spots give extraordinary grace to young leaves. Old leaves lose this original color and become dark and monochromatic, with white streaks preserved on some of them.

This plant is used to create group compositions in landscaping of adjacent plots and park areas. The combination of unusually beautiful willow foliage with darker shrubs is successful.

Babylonian willow

This species of weeping willow (its photo is available in the article) is an amazingly beautiful tree, which is a magnificent decoration of park areas in southern Russia. Its homeland is the regions of China (Central and Northern). The tree grows to a height of no more than 15 meters. A large weeping crown reaches a width of up to 9 meters. It is formed by flexible, thin, shiny and bare branches of a yellow-green hue hanging down to the ground.

The leaves of the Babylonian willow are pointed and narrowly lanceolate, finely serrate along the edge. Young foliage is slightly shiny, gray-gray on the underside, green above. Flowering occurs after the leaves open.

Grows quite fast. It looks spectacular in any planting near water bodies and on lawns.

Whole-leaved willow

This plant is found in Japan and in the south of Primorye. A general description of the weeping willow tree of this variety: a sprawling shrub of three meters in height, the trunk is curved at the base, the leaves are narrow and oblong.

Due to the soft green tone of the leaves and their arrangement (similar to fern leaves), as well as thanks to the shoots (arranged in an arcuate shape and inclined to the sides), the willow acquires an unusually beautiful appearance. Flowering occurs in May with the release of a hyacinth aroma. The plant looks great in any group and single plantings near water bodies.

Norway willow (or willow)

The plant may be a tree or shrub. Weeping willow of this variety has an oval crown, reaching a height of up to 8 meters. Her shoots are flexible purple-red with a bluish bloom.

The foliage is long, linear-lanceolate, pointed. Green and shiny above, gray below. This variety is one of the most unpretentious and undemanding to growing conditions.

Rosemary willow

This species of weeping willow is a semi-dwarf round shrub up to 2 m high and wide. Initially, the lateral shoots grow upwards, then they become arched. This willow grows slowly. The leaves are green above and white below. Fragrant yellow flowers bloom in April. Rosemary willow is frost and wind resistant.

Weeping willow tree (see photo in the article) of this variety in natural conditions found in Europe and Asia (Central and Middle).

Propagation of willow

Under natural conditions, willow is propagated by seeds; under conditions of home cultivation, seedlings and cuttings are used for this. The second is harvested in autumn or spring. For them, the middle parts of young shoots are suitable, the age of which is not more than two years. After landing in open ground (in the spring after the snow has completely melted) weeping willow, caring for it is not difficult. You can plant trees in the fall, when the movement of the juice ends. In the latter case, the soil should be covered with straw and leaves, and the tree with spruce branches.

Preparing cuttings for planting in the ground:

  • cutting length – up to 30 cm;
  • planting in the ground in any warm room or greenhouse;
  • water the seedlings frequently, loosen the soil around them and apply fertilizer until they are strong;
  • young trees should not be planted in the first year, they should spend the first winter warm.

Planting and care

Weeping willow is not capricious and easy to care for. Special attention should be paid only to the composition and moisture content of the soil. Under natural conditions, the plant grows on loamy and sandy soils, and regularly receives the necessary amount of moisture from the reservoir. If the willow has to be planted away from natural sources of water (river or pond), it will need to be constantly watered. On hot, dry summer days, it is useful to sprinkle the shoots with water.

Dig a small hole (60 cm deep) before planting. During the planting process, fertilizer should be applied so that the plant takes root faster. The lower 1/3 of the pit should be filled with a mixture of peat, soil and humus, the rest of the volume is filled with earth. The soil should be raked to the plant, forming a mound. Around make a small depression for watering. Immediately after planting the plant, you need to water it with 2 buckets of water.

Extra support is required for tall and unstable seedlings. A peg is placed, to which a young tree is fixed with a rope.

Willow does not need any additional feeding. It adapts well to sudden changes in temperature, and tolerates frost and drought well. However, periodic fertilization of the soil with compost and humus can bring benefits. The most comfortable conditions for the growth of willows are on moist soil. It grows faster in an area where the groundwater level is high.


In order to achieve good results, it is important to give regular attention to the weeping willow. Care in terms of pruning the plant is also necessary. In order for willow bushes and trees to develop and grow well, they should not only be watered and fertilized in a timely manner, it is important to form them correctly.

Willow trees should grow freely for several years after planting in the ground. When a growth of one meter is reached, pruning of the plant should begin. After flowering, young shoots should be shortened by about 20 cm, while leaving the buds pointing up and to the side.

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