History of Weeping Willow Trees. The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is easily identified by its long, graceful, cascading branches and slender, silvery leaves. It has been identified in various cultural contexts with deep human emotions.
The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is easily identified by its long, graceful, cascading branches and slender, silvery leaves. It has been identified in various cultural contexts with deep human emotions.
Origins of the Weeping Willow
The Latin name for the weeping willow, Salix babylonica, was coined by the 18th century Swedish botanist Linnaeus. Linnaeus believed that these trees originated in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, home in ancient times to the Babylonian civilization. Later research, however, showed that the weeping willow first grew in China.
Weeping Willows in Asia
In its native China, the weeping willow is an auspicious tree, symbolic of immortality. It is employed in this context to fashion wreaths thought to protect their wearers from poison.
As weeping willows are water-loving trees often found along riverbanks, they are associated throughout the world with the element of water. Willow branches are also used in China to perform rain-making ceremonies.
Ji-Cheng, a 9th century Chinese gardener, wrote, "The curving bay of willows in the moonlight cleanses the soul."
Weeping Willows in Europe
In Ireland, the willow is traditionally thought to be a tree that inspires people to dance. For this reason, its wood is used to construct harps.
Weeping willows have also been associated in Europe with sorrow and forsaken love. In Victorian times, they adorned mourning cards.
Willow branches are sometimes carried in Masonic funeral processions.
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