Salix alba subsp. vitellina 'Britzensis'

Common Name: coral bark willow
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 15.00 to 80.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 50.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellowish-white to brown
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Butterflies
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil, Wet Soil, Black Walnut

Culture

Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist soils in full sun.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salix alba is native to Europe, central Asia and northern Africa, white willow was brought to the U. S. in the 1700s by European settlers and has since escaped and naturalized in many parts of North America. This is an upright, fast-growing, deciduous tree than grows to 50-80’ tall with erect branching that typically forms a broad, loose, open crown. Bark is yellowish-brown. The species is now rarely sold, but a number of cultivars are very popular, including plants noted for weeping form and for showy red or yellow winter twigs. This is a dioecious species, with flowering catkins appearing on separate male and female trees in May. Male catkins (to 2” long) are somewhat showy, having tiny flowers with yellowish anthers and two stamens. Female catkins are smaller and non-showy, with greenish flowers. Narrow, lanceolate, finely-toothed leaves (to 4” long) are gray-green above and white-silky beneath. Leaves gradually taper at the bases. Variable fall color is usually a pale yellow, but sometimes appears as a quality yellow.

Genus name from Latin, salix means willow

Specific epithet of alba means white.

'Britzensis' is an all-male cultivar which is most noted for the fact that its new growth stems turn red to orange-red in winter. In order to maximize this red stem effect, this plant is often grown as a multi-stemmed shrub with the branches being cut back heavily each year in late winter to about 1' from the ground before new growth appears. Plants are fast growing and can usually produce 6-8' of new growth in one growing season. Sometimes also grown as a tree and pollarded (branches are annually cut close to the trunk in late winter to promote dense growth of new stems) as a way of promoting best red stem growth and showcasing the same. If not pruned severely, 'Britzensis' can eventually mature into a large shrub or medium size tree.

Problems

Susceptible to numerous foliar diseases, blights and cankers and many insect pests including aphids, scale and borers.

Garden Uses

Grown mainly for its red stems in winter, its attractive foliage and for its ability to prosper in wet soil conditions. As a multi-stemmed shrub, it can be effectively massed or grouped in shrub borders or foundations. Also can make an effective screen. Mix with Salix alba var. vitellina for red and yellow stem contrast. As a tree, it may be pollarded to showcase the new-growth red stems. As an unpruned tree, it can be quite effective in informal naturalistic settings. Regardless of habit, it is a good selection for moist soils along streams, ponds or in low spots where other shrubs or small trees may falter.