Coming from the cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the great willow tree has left many an impression on those who’ve passed under its shade.
Authors such as Tolkien and Hans Christian Anderson have written of its magic, while in witchcraft, the willow is known as one of the nine sacred trees.
In China, its branches are used to ward off evil spirits, while in other cultures, it is regarded as a symbol of wisdom.
In Australia, however, the story of this majestic and rather solemn looking tree is quite different, as besides gaining notoriety for producing a caboodle of first-class cricket bats, the willow is increasingly seen as an “aggressive” nuisance.
In fact, it appears to have quite a knack for stealth-like invasion, as after being introduced from Europe to stabilise our river banks, this weeping wanderer is now threatening native plants, as well as the ecology of Australia’s rivers.
The situation has lead CSIRO scientists to use genetic testing in order to monitor its movements, so they can eradicate what is now being termed “a weed of national significance”.
Perhaps we should have listened to the English, who described the willow as ‘sinister’ in folklore, as tests revealed this crafty little drooper can disperse its seeds and pollen up to 15 kilometres away. Interestingly, findings also reveal it’s only certain willows that spread their seedlings.
Ecologist and CSIRO project supervisor, Andrew Young, says the older and bigger trees appear to be the main culprits. He says now particular specimens can be targeted, which saves having to eradicate the entire lot, thereby saving millions of dollars spent each year on willow control.
Could this spell the end of the willow tree in Australia? No more enchanting picnics, storybook meanders, and droop laden divergences?
Australian poet and willow advocate, Stanley Water-Possum, says there’s no need to swivel the romantic spot light away from the willow, just because a bunch of big, dirty old specimens can’t keep it in their pants. He says those lot have had their day, and should have their tubes tied, while the young can continue to languish in song, and charm without harm.