While attending the Cumberland County Fair, take a moment to look at the Crossville Tree Board’s latest Tree of Distinction – the weeping willow (salix babylonica) – which is located outside the front gate of the Cumberland County Fairgrounds.
In a conversation with Roger Thaxton (former Extension Agent for Cumberland County and former Crossville Tree Board member) he remembers this tree already being at the Community Complex when he arrived there 35 years ago. That would make this weeping willow a mature tree, but not yet in decline.
The weeping willow is a non-native species, coming from China, through Europe, to North America in the late 1700s. It is a large, handsome tree, growing 30 to 70 feet tall and, like all willows, is fast-growing but relatively short-lived. In ideal conditions, a weeping willow can grow several feet a year, but has a life span of only about 50 to 75 years. A weeping willow provides excellent shade from a broad rounded crown of slender down-sweeping branches. The trunk can be up to three feet in diameter with bark that is furrowed and dark brown to black. The leaves are lance-shaped, longer than they are wide (three to six inches long and one half to one inch wide) and the leaves have finely-toothed edges. They are a light green in color with a smooth glossy top and paler underside.
Established willows can tolerate dry soil and drought, but they thrive in moist or even wet soil, and the Community Complex willow is no exception. It is rooted in a drainage area that has standing water after a hard rain. Like all willows, weeping willows can easily be started by placing a cutting in moist soil.
Weeping willows provide excellent shade, and they are also a good tree for use in stabilizing stream banks and for controlling erosion. There are some things to consider before planting a weeping willow, however. This tree can become enormous, so they’re not a good choice for a small lot. Their extensive root systems can be destructive to roadbeds, foundations and underground pipes, so they should be planted well away from buildings or roads.
Trees of Distinction are selected quarterly by the Crossville Tree Board, and articles about them are published in the Crossville Chronicle. This endeavor is to promote awareness of the importance of trees in our local environment.