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Crack Willow

Salix fragilis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 metres tall
Fens, fields, gardens, marshes, riverbanks, riversides, towns, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Green, no petals
Catkins are produced in spring. Male flowers are yellow, female green. Insect-pollinated.
Fruit capsules which release many cottony seeds.
Blue-green, long, glossy, pointed leaves with finely toothed margins. Similar leaves to those of Osier and White Willow but the undersides are not pale or silvery. Each leaf measures anything up to 15cm in length and 3cm in width.
Other Names:
Basket Willow, Brittle Willow, Fragile Willow.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Salix fragilis, also known as Crack Willow, is a species of willow tree that is native to Europe and Asia. It is known for its brittle branches, which easily crack and break, hence its name. The tree can grow to be large and can live for up to 80 years. The bark of the tree contains salicin, which is used in the production of aspirin. Crack willow is also used in traditional medicine for various ailments, including fever, pain, and inflammation. It is also a common tree planted along river banks to prevent erosion.


Crack Willow, Salix fragilis, is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the willow family and is known for its ability to crack and break under stress. This species of willow is commonly found along riverbanks, lakesides, and wetlands, as it is adapted to withstand the high levels of moisture in these environments.

The crack willow is a tall and slender tree, growing up to 20 meters in height with a narrow crown. Its leaves are long and narrow, measuring up to 10 cm in length, and are a bright green color during the growing season. The tree produces catkins in the spring, which are clusters of tiny flowers that are a food source for many species of wildlife, including bees and other insects.

The bark of the crack willow is a unique feature of this species. It is a light grey color, and as the tree grows, it begins to crack and split, forming deep furrows. This cracking is where the tree gets its name, and it is also what makes it highly prized for use in basket weaving and other forms of traditional handicrafts.

In addition to its practical uses, the crack willow is also an important species in terms of wildlife and conservation. The tree provides shelter and habitat for many species of birds and mammals, and it is a valuable food source for many species of insects. Furthermore, its roots play an important role in erosion control, helping to stabilize riverbanks and other areas of wetland.

In The crack willow is a versatile and valuable tree species, both for its practical uses and for its ecological importance. It is a fast-growing species that is well-adapted to wet environments, making it an ideal choice for planting along riverbanks and other areas where soil erosion is a concern. Whether you are looking to add a unique and attractive tree to your landscape, or you are interested in preserving the natural beauty of wetlands and river systems, the crack willow is an excellent choice.

In terms of cultivation, the crack willow is a hardy and easy-to-grow species. It prefers moist soils, but can also grow in drier conditions if it is well-drained. This tree species is often used in landscaping and reforestation projects, as it is a fast-growing species that provides quick shade and erosion control. It is also commonly used as a pioneer species in restoration projects, as it helps to stabilize and prepare the soil for the growth of other, more long-lived tree species.

Another important aspect of the crack willow is its use in traditional medicine. The bark of the tree contains salicin, which is a natural pain reliever, and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including headaches, joint pain, and even heart disease. In addition, the bark has been used as a natural remedy for fevers, and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.

Despite its many benefits, the crack willow does have some negative impacts, particularly when it is grown in large monocultures. This can lead to the loss of biodiversity and the displacement of native species, as the crack willow is a highly invasive species that can quickly outcompete other trees and shrubs. For this reason, it is important to carefully manage and control the spread of the crack willow, and to choose other species that are more suited to the local ecosystem.

The crack willow is a species with a rich history and many important uses, both practical and ecological. Whether you are a gardener, a naturalist, or just someone who appreciates the beauty of trees, this species is well worth considering. Just be sure to plant it in the right place, and to manage it responsibly, so that you can enjoy all of its benefits and help to preserve the delicate balance of our local ecosystems.

One final aspect of the crack willow worth mentioning is its cultural significance. Throughout history, the crack willow has been revered and respected for its unique properties and versatility. In many cultures, the tree was associated with water and was considered to have mystical or spiritual qualities. In some cultures, it was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits, and was often planted near homes for protection.

In addition to its cultural significance, the crack willow has also been the subject of much artistic expression. From basket weaving to wood carving, this species has been used to create a wide range of traditional crafts and works of art. Its bark, in particular, has been a popular material for basket weaving, as it is strong, flexible, and easy to work with.

Finally, the crack willow is a tree that has played an important role in the development of science and technology. Its ability to crack and split has been studied by scientists, who have used this phenomenon to better understand the processes of growth and decay in plants. Furthermore, the tree's natural resistance to disease and pests has been used as a model for developing new and innovative pest-management strategies in agriculture.

The crack willow is a species with a rich and varied history, and is a valuable part of our cultural, artistic, and scientific heritage. Whether you are interested in its practical uses, its cultural significance, or its scientific importance, the crack willow is a species that deserves our respect and appreciation. So next time you come across one of these unique and versatile trees, take a moment to admire its beauty and appreciate its many contributions to our world.

As the crack willow is a fast-growing species, it has the potential to be used as a renewable resource. The wood of the tree is lightweight and flexible, making it ideal for use in a variety of applications, including furniture making, paper production, and even construction. In many parts of the world, the crack willow is sustainably managed and harvested for its wood, providing a valuable source of income and employment for local communities.

In addition to its wood, the crack willow also has the potential to be used as a source of bioenergy. The tree is able to grow quickly, and its fast growth rate means that it is able to absorb and store a large amount of carbon dioxide. This makes it an attractive option for use in bioenergy production, as it provides a renewable source of energy that helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, the crack willow is a tree species that is well-suited to the challenges of climate change. As temperatures continue to rise and rainfall patterns become more unpredictable, the crack willow's ability to tolerate a wide range of conditions will become increasingly valuable. Its ability to grow quickly and provide shade and erosion control in areas of high rainfall will be especially important in the face of increasing levels of rainfall and flooding.

In conclusion, the crack willow is a versatile and valuable species with a wide range of uses and benefits. Whether you are interested in its practical applications, its cultural significance, its ecological importance, or its potential as a renewable resource, this tree is a species that deserves our attention and respect. So the next time you come across a crack willow, take a moment to appreciate this unique and valuable tree species, and consider all of the ways in which it contributes to our world.

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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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