Summer is on its way and a popular image depicting our summer is that of a willow tree dipping its graceful branches into a bubbling stream. Indigenous to South Africa, Salix mucronata is a tall, evergreen to semi-deciduous tree that has an open crown and slightly drooping branches. It can grow to a height of up to 5 m or higher and young trees display smooth, green-red bark that become fissured and brown as it matures.
The foliage is simple and alternate with tapered ends and has a darker green colour on top with a lighter shade beneath. The leaves are delicate and respond to the lightest of breezes, giving the tree a shimmering aspect. The leave edges can be smooth or toothed.
Flowers appear as short spikes and male and female flowers develop on separate trees. The male spikes are dense, up to 50 mm in length with a yellow colouring, while the greenish female spikes are shorter and thicker. The fruit is a small, dehiscent capsule and contains seeds that are covered with woolly hairs.
Salix mucronata is quite variable in appearance and have several subspecies ie. hirsuta (Silver willow), woodii (Flute willow) and capensis (Small-leaved willow). Naturally found in a riverine habitat, the tree is widely distributed in South Africa, growing along stream and river banks.
This is a fairly fast grower and the tree is hardy, able to withstand frost and drought conditions although it prefers damp conditions. This willow is a good choice for a water garden and will bring shady relief and butterflies and insects to your garden.