What’s Wrong With My Dappled Willow: Common Dappled Willow Problems?

Dappled Willow Leaves Turning Brown

Common Dappled Willows are not just common, they’re ubiquitous! They grow all over the world from coast to coast. Some species even thrive in arid environments like deserts or tundras.

However, most species have been bred for their ornamental qualities rather than their usefulness in agriculture. That’s why some species are so large and heavy that they can’t be used for most purposes. For example, the American chestnut (A. americana) is considered one of the largest trees in North America at up to 100 feet tall and weighs over 1 million pounds! Other species such as the California poppy (Papaver somniferum), the goldenrod (Raphanthus spp.) and other members of the rose family are also susceptible to becoming invasive weeds.

In addition to being invasive, these species often suffer from disease problems. A few examples include white pine blister rust (Pinus albicaulis), red maple leaf spot (Sorbus sativus), yellow birch borer (Lepidoptera: Melissococcus) and Japanese knotweed (Eriogonum). These diseases can devastate an area if left unchecked.

Even worse, they can kill trees before they reach maturity!

Dappled Willows are known for their beautiful white-and-green leaves, but that’s not the only thing that makes them popular. Their catkins (flowering stems) hold countless yellow-red fruits. These seeds can be eaten or ground into a nutritious meal.

They can even be brewed to make a nutritious and refreshing drink. No wonder these plants are so common! That brings us to the next problem…

Overexploitation: Even though Common Dappled Willows are fairly easy to grow, they have a tendency to spread quickly. That means that humans regularly plant them in gardens and orchards. It also means that humans often take more than the environment can readily replenish.

Thanks to deforestation and reckless logging practices, many areas have lost most of their Common Dappled Willows. In other words, we rely on these easy-to-cultivate plants a little too much.

Habitat Loss: As you can imagine, humans didn’t stop at clearing forests to make way for farms and pastures. They also cut down trees to build houses and factories. They even cut down trees to burn in smelters and forges!

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Even if they did want to preserve trees, it isn’t always possible. After all, humans need room to expand their communities. If Common Dappled Willows are found in the way, they get chopped down and burned too.

Why Are Pacific Willows Attacking My House?

I’ll be honest. Pacific willows (Salix pacifica) aren’t really attacking your house. They’re trying to grow as fast as they can so they can take over your house! Just kidding. Unfortunately, they’re doing a pretty good job of taking over your yard. That’s because these suckers thrive in wet areas and often grow at a rate of up to a foot a day! If you’re looking for free trees, you might want to plant some pacific willows.

However, while pacific willows may be fast growers, they don’t always do the best job of holding the soil in place. As a result, they often contribute to landslides. When this happens, many of the trees get uprooted and die.

After all, it’s not easy to grow roots again…especially after being battered by rocks!

These trees also suffer from pests. For example, the pacific willow leaf beetle (Lachnosterna sp.) feeds on young willow leaves.

If you get sick of these beetles, you can always drown them. Just put them in a bucket of water. You can also use them to scare your friends! Just carry the bucket of water and some beetles with you. When a friend comes over, drop a few beetles on their shoulder from behind. Not only will they jump, but they’ll most likely blame the beetles and not you.

These insects aren’t the only ones that like to eat these trees. The pacific willow leaf beetle’s favorite food is the young foliage. They’re not picky though.

They’ll also eat the mature leaves and even the bark!

Leaf miners like to tunnel through the leaves too. As their name suggests, they form small tunnels through the leaves. They aren’t picky eaters either.

Leaf miners will eat the leaves of many different tree species!

Fortunately, these pests don’t kill the trees. However, the same can’t be said for the pacific willow borer. This gray and black moth (Archetyponota oregonensis) lays its eggs on the branches of pacific willows.

When the caterpillars hatch, they feed on the foliage while inside the safety of their eggs. When they grow larger, they come out to feed…and eat…and eat some more.

Eventually, they’ll grow so large that they have to crawl out of their skins and then grow again. When this happens, they often fall to the ground and burrow into the soil to pupate. After a few weeks, they emerge as moths.

Willow Fire!

Not all trees are flammable…or are they? While some trees contain flammable resin, such as pine trees, other trees naturally repel fire.

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These trees actually have anti-flammable chemicals in their cells.

Pacific willows are some of the most flammable trees around. They contain a lot of flammable oil, which is why they often go up in flames so easily. Perhaps this is nature’s way of preventing them from overgrowing their native area.

Anyway, salamanders like nothing more to crawl around on these trees and hide underneath the bark. When you’re a salamander, the best place to live is a tree right next to a swamp.

When you get salamanders and fire together, you get one of nature’s most amazing sights: Fire-breathing salamanders! Well, they don’t actually breathe fire, but they do like to sun themselves on the warm bark of these trees…and they occasionally light their butts on fire.

They don’t seem to mind though. It will go out after a few minutes.

In an interesting twist of fate, these trees actually contribute to the decline of the very salamanders they host.

Why?

Because there aren’t many predators that like to eat salamanders. The main one are snakes and, as you might expect, they prefer their food live. Snakes don’t like to climb trees. However, pigs love to eat both salamanders and willow bark. Thus, the pigs will eat all the salamanders on a tree and then start on the bark. They’ll girdle the tree (kill it by cutting off the supply of nutrients), kill all the salamander hiding places…and eventually kill the tree.

Eventually, the overlogged of willows will either kill off all the pigs or adapt them to eat something other than salamanders. This is just one of many battles going on in nature right now!

Green Deceivers: A warning about willows!

Willows do more than look pretty and make great firewood. They also provide an important service to mankind: medicine.

Willow bark has long been used to make medicines. The Native Americans were the first to do so. Later on, European settlers learned of this practice and continued using it.

The active ingredient of the willow tree is salicylic acid (we now know that it’s good for pain, but it was originally used for fevers). This chemical can be extracted and used to make aspirin!

Salicylic acid isn’t the only useful thing in willow bark though…

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Some types of wasps have a taste for willow bark. In fact, there is a wasp called the velvet ant or velvet wasp that only eats this plant. These little guys look like little tiny ants (which is why they got their name) but are actually wasps.

They just like to look like bees, even down to the stripes! Unlike bees though, they can sting multiple times and their venom is quite potent.

These wasps aren’t very big though. They tend to be about the size of an ant. The thing that makes them dangerous is their sheer numbers.

When a velvet wasp colony moves into a willow tree, they send out thousands of scouts to look for food. These scouts are easily mistaken for normal flies. This is why it’s important to be careful around willows in the spring or early summer…which is exactly when these little bastards like to appear.

When a scout finds a good food source (a willow tree), the colony sends out even more scouts. Soon, hundreds or even thousands of these things can be found crawling all over the tree. This is probably also a good time to mention that these wasps are immune to the effects of the willow’s salicylic acid.

This is why they are able to eat the stuff!

These wasps rarely sting people.

Why?

Because they are very lazy and only sting things that try to take their food away from them.

Green deceivers: be careful around willows in the spring or early summer!

You walk along the banks of the river…

You stop for a minute to speak with a trapper named Lars. He looks pretty raggedy and doesn’t have a single hair on his face.

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“Hello there,” you call out to him as you approach.

What do you want?”

he asks. You’re a little taken aback by his response.

“Just thought I’d introduce myself, I’m Will.”

“Yeah, and I’m the King of Sweden,” he says in a bored tone. “Get outta here!”

You jump back half a step at his hostility. “I’m just offering my help. I saw you had your traps down.

Figured I’d reset them for you.

Where did you set the traps?”

You hear a *click* as his rifle pivots from pointing at the ground to pointing right at your head.

“Get the hell outta here or the next thing going into my skull will be bullets!” he says. You slowly step backward as he focuses on you intently.

It isn’t until your back is against a tree that he finally looks away, muttering to himself.

“Bastard luck…that’s what I have…bastard luck…always seems to save my life…”

He sets his gun down on a stump and begins mumbling again. “Why the hell does this always happen to me…I can’t even trap for food without something going wrong…(mutter, mutter)…dumb asses probably got lost and ran into my traps…(mutter, mutter)…damn bastards don’t know what its like to be a trapper…(mutter, mutter)…’fraid of a little pain don’t ya.

Well too bad, cause I’m gonna skin you alive and wear your carcasses like a scarf!”

As he says this last bit he looks up at the sky and you get a good luck at his face. His eyes are completely black. Like there’s no color at all.

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You recover from your shock as he suddenly turns back towards you.

What’re you still doin here?

Thought ya said you’d leave!”

“I…uh…I…” you stammer.

“Oh, what a surprise, the kid can’t even speak! Hahaha!”

Lars grabs his gun and sets to work repairing one of his traps. You back slowly away from him, then turn and run as fast as you can. As you run you think about how he reacted to your skin.

That was really strange.

Does he know I’m different? How could he?

Unless…no that’s impossible!

But what if it’s true?

He did say he was a trapper…and I did run into those wasps…maybe my new skin isn’t as perfect as I thought!

If Lars knew, what else does he know? More importantly, what is he going to do about it?

!?

You run back to the village and tell everyone what happened. They don’t quite know how to react. Some are furious at Lars for threatening you.

Most just seem confused, like they think you’re getting worked up over noth…

Suddenly, the Mayor’s assistant exclaims that he saw Lars leave his house with a rifle in the middle of the night. The mayor immediately organizes a search party to look for him. You don’t tell anyone, but you have a bad feeling about this.

You wish you didn’t, but you think Lars may have killed himself.

The next day the search party doesn’t return. When you ask the mayor about it he just shakes his head sadly.

“I’m sorry kid, I think Lars took it hard all those men dying and being brought back to life. I told him that doing that sort of dark magic would lead to nothing but trouble.”

You try not to think about it anymore as you go through the rest of your summer. You go back to playing your music and exploring the woods as usual. You even make a new friend in little Cecilia Gardner, the mayor’s daughter when he has you play for her birthday party.

But always in the back of your mind is Lars and what happened that summer.

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You’ll never know if it was your doing or just bad luck.

“It’s done, I can rest easy now.” You quietly say to yourself as you drift off to sleep.

Sources & references used in this article:

Xylella fastidiosa: Cause of Pierce’s Disease of Grapevine and Other Emergent Diseases by DL Hopkins, AH Purcell – Plant disease, 2002 – Am Phytopath Society

Diseases of forest and shade trees of the United States by GH Hepting – 1971 – books.google.com

Tree cultures: the place of trees and trees in their place by P Cloke, O Jones – 2020 – books.google.com

Diseases and pests of vegetable crops in Canada by RJ Howard, JA Garland, WL Seaman… – Journal of Economic …, 1996 – phytopath.ca

The urban tree book: an uncommon field guide for city and town by A Plotnik – 2009 – books.google.com

The younger evangelicals: Facing the challenges of the new world by RE Webber – 2002 – books.google.com

The Grime’s Graves problem in the light of recent researches by AL Armstrong – Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia, 1926 – cambridge.org

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