Wind in the Willows ..

A change in the weather , the first named storm of the year (Ali) arrived , we didn’t have the terrible 80mph winds but it was definitely WINDY !

The Willow trees certainly didn’t look like this picture of Ratty and Mole happily picnicking and resting today.

They were being smashed about by the wind and were making a real noise.

Willow trees are very common around rivers , lakes and meadows. There are approximately 400 species of willow tree.

Willows are also known as Sallows or Osiers and belong to the genus Salix.

They are mainly found in the Northern hemisphere on moist soils in cold and temperate climates.

The two common willows along the lakes and rivers locally are the white willow (Salix Alba)and the crack willow (Salix fragilis.)Willows freely hybridise so they can be difficult to identify.

White willow has been used in the past to make baskets and the cribs for animal feed. It has even been used to make small sailing boats.

Crack willow is named after the sound made when the branches and twigs fall, which they often do and today there were twigs and branches strewn across paths. There was also a large willow that had split and fallen. Interestingly the fallen branches can easily grow and are a way for the trees to spread.

The cricket bat willow is a hybrid of the white and crack willows.

These trees are often managed by poldering ( as in ratty and moles picture) this encourages new straight growths of stems for use in making baskets etc but also prevents splitting and prolongs the life of the tree. At Westonbirt arboretum there is a willow that is coppiced in a 20 year cycle and is hundreds of years old.

Willows have early flowers , catkins.These are a good source of nectar and pollen for bees and insects in the early part of the year. They are a food source for caterpillars :- Puss moth, Willow Ermine, Eyed Hawk Moth and Red Underline. It provides roosting and nest sites and is eaten by deer and rabbits.

It seems that this common tree provides food , shelter, building materials and beauty along the river bank.

According to Ratty the best place to see them is probably from a boat !

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