December Plant of the Month: White Willow (MT: Żafżaf Kbir) Salix alba

Project Pancake Flora –

 Plants and Nature Conveying Augmented Knowledge for Everyone

White Willow. Photo thanks to Alex Casha.

Following last month’s White Poplar another silvery deciduous tree connected to riverside habitats is the White Willow. Until the turn of the century it had the unfortunate reputation of featuring in the top list of rare trees in Malta until at one point only one male tree survived in the wild. To date there are no female trees recorded as yet in Malta which means it can only be grown from cuttings.

Thankfully its numbers increased thanks to an initiative which saw the planting of numerous cuttings at Wied Fiddien which is now a Tree Protection Area (within the Chadwick Lakes Nature Reserve). 

The White Willow has bicoloured leaves which are narrow, pointed and hairy. It is a fast growing but short lived tree and its habitat is equally rare in Malta. It is a riparian tree which means it typically grows in periodically flooded areas along river banks

Known as nature’s aspirin the Salicin from the bark has long been used to relieve pain and fever. The active ingredient, salicylic acid, was already recognised in the 19th century and became known as aspirin in its synthetic form. The White Willow is a strictly protected tree in Malta.  

(right) Leaves of the White Willow – Photo thanks to Alex Casha

About Project PANCAKE:

As part of the Project PANCAKE (Plants and Nature Conveying Augmented Knowledge for Everyone) we are looking at a number of plant species chosen together with the deaf communities in Malta, Italy, Spain and UK to create new signs for plants which until now had never been described in sign language. 

Read more about PANCAKE here!

Check out our Community library for publications on local biodiversity!

Click here to get an insight into Trees and Shrubs of the Maltese Islands and their Habitats by Eman J. Calleja.

Photos by Alex Casha and text by Annalise Falzon

Plants and Nature Conveying Augmented Knowledge for Everyone

pancake disclaimer

Donate now!