The corkscrew willow is a variety of the species Salix matsudana or Hankow willow. Corkscrew willow or Tortousa is an eye-catching cultivar of this species due to its contorted, twisted branches. Corkscrew willows have a horizontal growth pattern that can be easily distinguished from a weeping cultivar of the same species.
The Leaves and Branches
A mature corkscrew willow can have a semi-weeping appearance and can therefore be mistaken as a weeping willow. There are also other cultivars of Salix matsudana that are weeping and have contorted features that differ from that of the corkscrew willow. The leaves of the corkscrew willow are simple, flat and lance shaped. The branches are a distinguishing feature. In youth, the branches are yellow, ageing to an olive green to brownish-green. Branches of the more vigorous shoots often show the greatest degree of contortion.
Size and Shape
Corkscrew willows will only reach 20 to 30 feet at maturity with a 15-foot spread. Many weeping willows can grow up to 60 to 80 feet tall with age. Corkscrew willow branches change structure with time. A young corkscrew willow's branches grow straight up, almost parallel to the main trunk of the tree. At this stage, the branches are definitely not weeping. However, with age the branches tend to bend, almost horizontal with the ground. This is not a true weeping form, but can be identified as semi-weeping.
There are some cultivars of Salix matsudana that are weeping and have some contorted features. One such variety is Golden Curls. Golden Curls is a hybrid between a corkscrew willow and a true weeping willow, Salix alba ''Tristis." The golden stems are not as contorted as corkscrew willow, but the branches display more of a weeping form. There is one feature that will help you to identify this cultivar exactly. The leaves are curled, giving it a unique texture and form. This tree also grows higher and wider than a corkscrew willow.
Uses for Corkscrew Willow
Corkscrew willows offer many benefits for both the landscape and the home. A corkscrew willow is an excellent choice for areas near water such as ponds, water features, river banks and lakes. Corkscrew willows can also tolerate salty soils and make a good selection for roadside gardens in areas where salt is used on the road in the winter. Corkscrew willows are used by florists to bring height, texture and character to floral arrangements.
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