Cricket-bat willow is a local variety of the White willow that probably arose as a wild tree in Essex, though today it can only be found in cultivation. It is always a female tree. The crown has a characteristic shape, a regular cone, and the foliage shows an attractive Silvery-blue colour.
Willows are seldom raised from seed. Most kinds strike root readily from any stout twig pushed in the soil. Cricket-bat willow, the only kind grown commercially for timber today, is increased in this way. After one year's growth the rooted cuttings are lifted from the ground, cut back to a single stout bud, and then replanted in the nursery. The solitary bud grows up into a straight 'set' and the 'rooted sets' are then planted out on good agricultural land at a wide spacing, usually i>m apart
Winter twig of Cricket-bat willow (life size) and a single leaf bud (xS).
Our photo shows a typical Cricket-bat willow nearing maturity, The lower branches have been pruned away to stop knots form-tag low down After only 32 years of rapid growth the willows are felled. Their trunks are then cleft by hand tools such as axes and wedges, into several triangular 'clefts,' each a little larger than the finished blade of a bat This blade is then shaped, again by the hand, to its final form. The striking face of the blade must always lie along a radius of the growing tree - that is a line from the circumference to the centre.
Leafy shoot and female catkins of Cricket-bat willow in May (life size). Right: a single pistil and two bi-lobed stigmas at its tip. Far right: leaf, lanceolate in shape, which is blue-green in colour and bears silvery hairs on its lower surface.
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