Crack willow, brittle willow (Eng), sauce, mimbrera (Spa), vimetera (Cat), zume hauskorra (Baq), salgueira (Glg), salgueiro-frágil (Por).
“I slept in the dark eternity / sweet sleep, tired forehead / resting on a willow growing / alone on the bank of the river”.
‘La corona de oro’, Gustavo Adolfo Becquer
This willow can be up to 20 m tall, has an upright trunk, grey, fissured bark and brittle twigs, as its name suggests. The leaves are deciduous, simple, alternate, and lanceolate. They are 5-16 cm long, 1-3 cm wide, and have a serrated margin. They are hairless on both sides, a characteristic that differentiates this species from Salix alba L. The flowers develop in spring on long filaments called catkins. The fruits are capsules that open when ripe to release seeds wrapped in a cottony material that helps them be dispersed by the wind.
This tree grows in areas where there is a shallow water table, associated with water courses or bodies of water, from sea level up to 1900 m. The ease with which its branches can break, sometimes with just a gust of wind, means that they can fall onto a suitable medium and resprout. The tree alternates this form of vegetative reproduction with seeds. The tangled matt formed by the roots of willows in general, along with many riparian trees and shrubs, helps stabilise slopes and reduce the risk of flooding. Additionally, they are excellent filters that improve water quality.
This tree lives throughout Europe and southwestern Asia, although it has been naturalised in many places. It is distributed across the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands but as it has been cultivated since ancient times it is difficult to pinpoint its natural range.