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Plant Profile: Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’)

Also known as Hankow willow, curly willow, dragon’s claw willow and globe willow, this multi stemmed deciduous tree is a member of the willow family, Salicaceae, that also includes aspen, poplar, and cottonwood.  A native of China and Korea, it is erect when young but spreading as it ages, reaching  up to 30′ tall and 15′ wide. The long twisted branches  and shoots are yellow when young, olive green with maturity, and carry lanceolate contorted leaves that are 2-4″ long, bright green, and have serrated margins.  In late spring inconspicuous yellowish male and female flowers appear in catkins on different trees.  They are not ornamentaly valuable and the tree is grown primarily for its branching pattern best enjoyed in winter after the leaves have fallen.  The contortion of the branches can be increased by pollarding.   Plants are short lived so not valued as street trees but do well  and are attractive near water features and provide food for bees and butterflies.  The stems are used in both dried and fresh arrangements.  The genus name, Salix, is the ancient Latin name for one species.  The specific epithet, matsudana, honors Sadahisa Matsudo, a 19th cemtury Japanese botanist who cataloged many plants of China.  The  cultivar name, ‘Tortuosa’ ,is the  Latin word meaning full of crooks or turns, and refers to the branching pattern.

Type: Deciduous tree

Outstanding Feature: Twisted branches

Form: Oval to rounded

Growth Rate: Rapid

Bloom: Inconspicuous male and female flowers in catkins on different trees in late spring

Size: 20-30 ‘H  x  10-15’ W

Light: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Average, consistently moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Care: Clean up litter of twigs and branches

Pests and Diseases: Aphids, gypsy moths, leaf beetles, lace bugs, borers, crown galls, scab, canker, leaf spot, powdery mildew, rust, tar spot,

Propagation: Cuttings

Photo Credit: Wikidata