A curly willow tree (Latin name Salix Matsudana Tortuosa) and a weeping willow tree are both in the willow family. While a weeping one has limbs that grow down toward the ground, the curly one has branches that grow in a curling, spiraling form. Other popular names for the curly variety are the corkscrew, rattlesnake, dragon’s claw, peking and hankow willows.
In addition to the curling and spiraling limbs, the curly willow also has curly leaves. The leaves of this deciduous tree are long and narrow with serrated edges; a bright green color on top and a grayish green color on the underside. The flowers, called catkins, which are long and pendulous – somewhat like a fluffy cat’s tail – form in April or May, usually before the leave emerge. Fall foliage is typically bright yellow.
The curly willow is a fast growing tree. Like most fast growing trees, it has a rather short lifespan. Also, like most fast growing trees, the wood is somewhat weak and prone to breaking during storms. There are some cultivars that have been developed that are studier than others. The tree is beautiful to behold in all seasons, but is of particular interest in the fall and winter once the leaves have dropped. The contorted and twisted limbs are quite eye catching against a backdrop of evergreens, or against the blue sky, or when covered with a layer of snow.
While the curly willow is a wonderful specimen tree, it is also used as a bonsai plant. The branches are used in live flower bouquets and arrangements. These can be planted in the yard and will easily grow into a new tree. The dried branches and twigs are also used in arrangements and are often displayed by themselves in a vase. You can usually find them sold in bunches where ever dried flowers are sold.
Some homeowners have enjoyed many years with their willow trees, while others seem to have nothing but problems. As mentioned before, they can easily break due to wind or ice. Disease and pests pose other problems for it. Canker, leaf blight, powdery mildew are diseases you need to watch out for. Aphids, scale, lacebugs, gypsy moths and borers are just some of the pests that can prove deadly to it. It has a shallow root system that can invade plumbing and crumble driveways. By choosing the strongest cultivar, carefully choosing a spot for planting and a little TLC, the curly willow can be a wonderful tree to have in your home garden.