Tree Stories 3 – Willow

Willow curtain

Willow curtain


The third ‘tree story’, willow, is now available for reading on its own page.

Willow is a tree I have written about here before, when it was just coming into leaf in Spring. Now in October its much denser leafy canopies are an opaque curtain, shielding all from view. I find myself aware of entering a willow’s space more than any other type of tree; having a physical transition is part of this, and the light being filtered also helps, but I often feel like I am ‘between the worlds’ when under a willow.

Damaged willow

Damaged willow


Willow’s nature is watery; it lives by water and adapts its growth depending on how firm it finds the banks, changing from tree to shrub. Pollarding extends its life and prevents large branches being damaged by winter floods.

Individual trees can be short-lived, but because willow propagates itself vegetatively they can also be very old. This makes willow quite different to silver birch, which does not live to any great age. Willow’s water nature can also be seen in the shape of the leaves, like water drips or icicles, and in the case of crack willow, brittle as frozen water. However the serrated edges of most willow leaves indicate that fire is also present; the core wood has a reddish orange colouring, and the willow’s great medicinal contribution, salicylic acid found in the bark and used to make aspirin, is used for fever and inflammation.

Willow with hole

Willow with hole


It is known as the witches tree because it is so connected with the moon, willow is said to greatly aid intuition and psychic abilities. I would love to explore these aspects further. However it is not a tree that grows much in Derbyshire, for it belongs in quite different countryside. Nor does it grow along most of the rivers I used to paddle, preferring flatter, calmer conditions. The few mature (unpollarded!) trees I see regularly are in Derby town centre. There is one in particular that fascinates me, growing behind the Silk Mill Museum, because it has a hole through its trunk (pictured left). There is another near St Mary’s Bridge (below) that has a particularly lovely towering shape. Both grow on firm ground.
Willow tree

Willow tree

Sally is an alternative name for willow, coming from either the same root as the Gaelic Saille or the Old English Sallow depending on which source you prefer, which is why I choose this name for the character in the story. Willow itself seemed to supply the rest of the story and made it thoroughly enjoyable to write.

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