Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa'
Common Name: dragon's claw willow 
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Pale yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Wet Soil, Black Walnut


Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers full sun. Thrives in moist soils, but tolerates drier soils better than many other willows. Prune as needed in late winter to early spring.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salix matsudana, commonly called peking willow or hankow willow, is native to China and northeast Asia. It is a deciduous tree that grows to 40-50’ tall with an oval-rounded crown. Small, non-showy, pale yellow female catkins appear in April-May. Lance-shaped leaves (to 4” long) are curled and twisted. Leaves are bright green above and whitish-green below. Fall color may be a respectable golden yellow. Rough, brown, fissured bark appears on mature trees. Aside from its non-weeping form, it is otherwise very similar to S. babylonica.

Genus name is the Latin name for this plant.

‘Tortuosa’, commonly called dragon’s claw willow, is an upright female clone that typically grows 20-30’ tall and 10-15’ wide. As the common name and cultivar name both suggest, this tree is most noted for its twisted and contorted branches, branchlets and leaves, and it is primarily grown to display this unusual growth. The contorted branching is most easily observed in winter after leaf drop. Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’ is synonymous with and sometimes sold as Salix babylonica var. pekinensis ‘Tortuosa’. Additional common names for ‘Tortuosa’ include corkscrew willow, rattlesnake willow and contorted willow.


Susceptible to numerous disease problems including blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots and cankers. It also is visited by many insect pests including aphids, scale, borers, lacebugs and caterpillars. Branches may be damaged by ice and snow. Litter from leaves, twigs and branches may be a problem.

Garden Uses

Dragon’s claw willow is perhaps best grown as a specimen for display of its twisted branching. It may be difficult to site in many residential landscapes.