Salix species

Willow is fast growing and has a high moisture content. There are many species, but the most common ones you'll come across in the UK are goat willow (Salix caprea) and crack willow (Salix fragilis) which is often found near river banks and is pollarded. White willow (Salix alba) is used to make cricket bats and the charcoal from this species has been used by artists and also to make gunpowder.

Willow spoon on the bark of a large crack willow by the River Thames

So what is willow like as a wood to carve? Well, the high mosture content means that willow is very soft, pliable and easy to carve in the green. This has the potential downside of not holding a crisp line or face when dry compared to ther woods such as ash, birch or cherry. The wood can tear to leave indistinct carving lines. It is also a very plain, blond wood with a little figure or grain. This is partly because willow is what is known as diffuse porous wood. This means that the water carrying xylem vessels in the summer growth are evenly distributed across the growth ring, as compared to the ring-porous growth pattern of ash, where you can just about see the large xylem vessels laid down in early summer with the naked eye.

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