A couple of things people should know about "Salix babylonica"

  1. A true weeping willow will most often be Salix x sepulcralis ‘chrysocoma’. A striking feature is the yellowish colour of the hanging branches, at it brightest during winter (especially just before flowering, when you can spot them from many miles away). Weeping Salix babylonica is supposed to be not hardy by the gardening crowd (I’m not sure this really is true), so you would not expect this to planted where it gets cold during winter. Salix x sepulcralis is believed to be a triple hybrid (of Salix euxina, Salix alba and weeping Salix babylonica) and is nowadays called Salix x pendulina (does not matter too much on here, since they are synonyms).
  2. A common variety of Salix babylonica is the one with curly branches and wavy leaves, babylonica ‘tortuosa’. This is a female willow, so if you find seedlings of it (characterised by curly branches and wavy leaves), they are hybrids and should not be called Salix babylonica! It has to be said that some growers collect such seedlings in the wild and sell them, and those could be male, so beware.

Thanks for this. I’m not sure when the trend of calling all weeping willow varieties S. babylonica started.

Do you distinguish S. matsudana from S. babylonica?

You should post a guide on iNaturalist.


The name Salix babylonica was published by Linnaeus in 1753. This tree is not frost tolerant. The Weeping Willows grown in temperate areas are hybrids, usually Salix x sepulcralis (a name that goes back to 1890), a hybrid with Salix alba.

Salix matsudana is treated as a species by some people, as a subtaxon of S. babylonica by others. It seems to be a mutant of S. babylonica or one of its hybrids. Since it’s frost-tolerant, I doubt it’s a form of pure S. babylonica. However, the nomenclature of this group is a particularly messy little corner of Salix (willow) taxonomy and I don’t intend to pursue it any further.


The concensus is that weeping Salix babylonica and Salix babylonica ‘tortuosa’ belong to the same species (they share a unique set of characteristics). If that is the case, then Salix x sepulcralis surely is not a simple hybrid of weeping babylonica and alba. I realise that hybrids don’t necessarily should be somewhere between both parent species, but x sepulcralis is way out and also is nothing like the many known hybrids of babylonica ‘tortuosa’ and alba.
But, I actually just wanted to say that by far the commonest weeping willow should not be called babylonica and that seedlings of babylonica ‘tortuosa’ are hybrids. There are many thousands of x sepucralis recorded as babylonica on here, it would take ages to correct all of that, so I thought it could be worth mentioning on the forum.

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Yes. I hate to try to fix all that “S. babylonica” that can’t possibly be that species. But theoretically we should. Maybe after I fix . . . . (fill in the blank).

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Beware what? Are people allergic to the pollen?

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