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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Salix babylonica 'Annularis' - Curly-Leaved Willow

This odd weeping willow really catches your eye with its braid-like straight weeping branches covered with twisted leaves. Unlike Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa', this unusual tree has straight branches and leaved curled into circles. (If you see the tree in mid summer it will look all the more odd as the rust fungi have made the leaves orange.) I have seen several common names including Ringleaf Willow, Ram's Horn Willow and Curly-Leaved Willow. All seem appropriate as the cultivar name is 'Annularis' meaning rings. The tree also goes by the cultivar name 'Crispa'. 

Whatever name you choose, they grow to about 35 feet by 25 feet wide with upright primary scaffold branching and weeping smaller branches. I don't think they look as weepy as the species. Cultivar is a female.



Leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple, curled and or twisted on a straight stem. If straightened out the leaves would be about 4-5" long, narrowly lanceolate with serrated margins. Lighter green on the lower surface until the rust hits.



You have to love a great plant disease, at least I do. Rust fungi are host specific, obligate parasites and, I love this part, they have alternate hosts that are required to complete their life cycle. Even more interesting is that the alternate host is usually completely unrelated botanically. In this case it can be a conifer, such as the White fir (Abies concolor). The color of the leaves was actually what caught my eye from several blocks away.



Not a great shot, but the branchlets struck me as dreadlock looking strands. 



Bark is typical of the species, brown, shallow furrows with flat lighter brown or gray plates.



Misidentification:
Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' which has twisted stems as well.

Location:
Santa Cruz - Pleasure Point
3310 Hawes Dr.

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