Salix alba

Salix alba

The White Willow or Salice da Pertiche (Salix alba L.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Salicaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, Kingdom Plantae, Subarranean Tracheobionta, Superdivisione Spermatophyta, Division Magnoliophyta, Class Magnoliopsida, Order Salicales, Family Salicaceae and then to the Genus Salix and to the Species S. alba.

Etymology –
The term Salix comes from the classical Latin name of willow, perhaps associated with the Sanskrit saras, water and deriving from the Celtic sal lis, “near the water”. The specific sunrise is due to the color of the silvery white leaves on the lower page.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
White willow is a widespread species in Europe, western Asia and North Africa. Its typical habitat is that of alluvial soils, it is easily found in the woods that grow along the great rivers and is common in humid places and along the water courses up to 1000 meters above sea level throughout Europe.

Description –
The Salix alba is a tree that can reach 30 meters in height, with a straight trunk, often bifurcated at the bottom, with a grayish rind, wrinkled and furrowed longitudinally and with slanciatata hair of a beautiful gray-green color. The leaves are deciduous, simple, lanceolate, up to 10-11 cm long, with a lower gray-white page due to the presence of a dense down. It is a dioecious plant, with linear flowering spikes: the male flowers are characterized by two stamens with yellow anthers, while the female ones are green, with ovary elongated. The fruit is an oblong-pyriform capsule, which opens into two valves to free small stick seeds with long white hairs. The flowering period is between February and April.

Cultivation –
Salix alba is a plant that, even for the size it can reach, should be grown in sunny or semi-shaded open spaces, in flat and non-mountainous terrain. This plant does not tolerate cold climates, so it is advisable to place it in places with a temperate climate. Despite being able to adapt to any type of land, white willow prefers calcareous soils. If grown in non-humid areas, it needs consistent and frequent irrigation; for this reason it is advisable to plant this species near watercourses or lakes, in order to receive an indispensable water supply for its luxuriant growth. It is not mandatory to use fertilizers because it will draw the substances it needs from the fallen leaves during the autumn. Alternatively organic fertilizers can be used. The multiplication of Salix alba can be done by cutting or sowing. After cutting off the branch from the mother plant, it is necessary to plant it in a substrate composed of peat and sand. Whether it is propagated by seed or by cutting it is necessary to keep the substratum moist, taking care not to exceed with the irrigations, which can favor attacks by fungi and molds harmful for its health.

Uses and Traditions –
The white willow is a deciduous tree that grows near the ponds and in the wetlands, on clayey soils with muddy periodically flooded, rich in bases and nitrogen compounds, from the sea level to the lower mountain belt. This plant performs a land consolidation function, limiting damage in the event of landslides. Given the depth of the roots, the Salix alba is in fact widely used to give greater security to lands subject to landslides.The wood does not rot quickly in water-saturated soils; the young branches, especially of cutted plants, are used as wicker for the construction of baskets, chairs, etc. With the leaves the wool of yellow was once dyed. Its wood, light and not very precious, is used in the paper industry. Used as fuel burns quickly, producing good heat for a limited time. In the agriculture of the past, the white willow was used as a support for the vines having a fast growth, the plants in about 3/4 years were able to give the first piles. For the binding of the vines, however, this species was not used because it has a rigid and fragile wood, but was used and is still used the Salix viminalis where the young branches (win or wicker) .The plant is also rich in medicinal virtues. The rind contains salicylic acid, an essential component of the aspirin that was first obtained from the white willow; the bark contains tannin, used as disinfectant and cicatrizant. Appreciated ornamental essence of humid environments, it has always been widely cultivated for the production of wicker. Wood is mainly used for crates and packaging and in the paper industry. Its very precious wood is also used as fuel and for herbal products.

Preparation Mode –
From the White Willow you can get various products, some of which are now disused, such as dyes but some also interesting as those for the production of rooting hormones. It is obviously important to extract salicylic acid for the production of medicines while some active ingredients are used with extraction from the bark for the cosmetic industry.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.- Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore- Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d ‘Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.- Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.



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