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Mr. Smarty Plants - Decline of non-native weeping willow

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Monday - June 30, 2008

From: Breckenridge, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Transplants
Title: Decline of non-native weeping willow
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Breckenridge, Texas and last year I planted a Weeping Willow tree on my property. It grew fine and seemed to be very healthy until this month. All of a sudden it has steadily lost all its leaves. They just gradually fell off from the tips of the branches on back to the trunk. I cannot find anything wrong with it, no dryness, no insects or anything I can identify. Can you give me some suggestions as to what I might try to help save this tree? Thanks for your time.

ANSWER:

It sounds like transplant shock, from your description, even though the tree has been in the ground a year. A tree may go perfectly in a site, but is still going to need some coddling for the first year or so it is in the ground. Texas is having an excessively hot, dry Spring and early Summer, and weeping willows are considered water trees. I hope you have a hose that reaches that far; otherwise, you're going to be hauling buckets of water. You will need to monitor the moisture in the soil very closely, and drip water slowly from a hose stuck down in the soil around the roots.

Although there are 54 members of the Salix genus that are natives to North America, the weeping willow, or salix x sepulcralis, is not one of them. It is a hybrid of the Chinese Peking Willow and European white willow. This USDA Forest Service website has some more information on the weeping willow, including the fact that it is considered invasive in several states, and they don't show it growing at all in Texas. But what do they know? The same site says that the tree is susceptible to several diseases and insect damage, so, hopefully, your tree didn't come with some problem that is now emerging. We also found an ad for a "Texas weeping willow" which may be what you have, but it didn't give the Latin name for the tree, so we have no idea what that is. Here is a page of images of salix x sepulcralis.

Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the planting, protection and propagation of plants native to North America, we don't have any information on this tree in our Native Plant Database. Hopefully, watering as we recommended will perk your tree up. If you feel there may be a disease or pest problem, you might contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Stephens County. This website has contact information, phone numbers and instructions for finding the office. Sometimes being on the scene and able to examine a plant "in person" can detect a problem that we, at a distance, cannot.

 

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