With its bare, pendulous form and long, trailing branches, the weeping willow or Salix babylonica is a highlight of the winter season. Growing to more than 12 metres in height, this large deciduous tree has a broad crown, large trunk with ascending main branches carrying branchlets and twigs that droop to the ground or surface of the ponds forming a peaceful and shady old-world landscape.
The leaves are bright green on the top and glaucous beneath, changing to butter-yellow in the late autumn and early winter. The flowers are all female, yellowish-green and can be found amongst the bright green leaves in September (spring).
A member of the Salicaeae family, Salix babylonica is one of the most common species of willow–‘Salix’ is the ancient latin name for ‘willow’ and ‘babylonica’ means ‘Babylonian’. The name was given by Linnaeus when the species was found along the Euphrates River in Babylon.
However, it has been proven that the tree’s true origin is China and was probably brought to the Middle East by ancient China-Egypt traders. Today, there are numerous hybrid species of willow all around the world.
The weeping willow is one of the most familiar trees in Australia, especially along the banks of country streams and in parks. In Centennial Parklands, the original willows were planted in the late 1930s and 1940s using the species Salix babylonica. Although there are a few of these original willows surrounding the ponds, the majority these days are a form of hybrid willow.
Where can weeping willows be seen in the Parklands?
Many fine examples of Weeping Willows can be found around Musgrave Pond in Centennial Park.
The two ponds in this area are framed by mature willows, their soft, dropping branches creating a picturesque setting as they gently sweep the pond surface.
A collection of seven different species of willow can be seen surrounding the ponds at the rear of Ash Paddock and there is a golden form in the south-west corner of Centennial Park. These trees were propagated in Canberra and planted in the mid 1980s under then Director John Mortimer and Superintendent Ron Salkeld.
Although now considered a weed in many areas of Australia, within the confines of Centennial Park the weeping willow is a testament to the Victorian-style tradition synonymous with the Park’s design.