The entrance to this collection is framed by two large golden weeping willows (Salix alba ‘Tristis’). Once past these graceful guards, a small bridge leads over the DuPage River and into the grassy clearing. This is an ideal location for the Willow Collection, as many species are well-adapted to the moist conditions of a floodplain.
Willows are deciduous trees or shrubs in the genus Salix, in the willow family Salicaceae. There are more than 300 species in this genus, mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere. Willows bear flowers in spikes of drooping clusters (called catkins) early in the spring before leaves unfurl. Individual flowers are small but the catkins for some species are conspicuous and very attractive.
The Willow Collection at The Morton Arboretum was started in 1982 and is represented by 57 different kinds of willows and poplars. This collection is sited on nearly five acres, almost completely encircled by water from Willoway Brook and the DuPage River. The collection can be entered from the West Side Trailhead.
A beautiful place to explore late in the year, the Willow Collection exhibits incredible diversity of willows and poplars. The specimen sizes vary greatly: you will find a ground hugging silver creeping willow (Salix repens var.nitida), and you will also find many large shrubs and trees, such as the laurel willow (Salix pentandra), which has unusually glossy leaves.
Among the poplars in the collection, Korean poplar (Populus koreana) leafs out first. The tree is easily recognized by its bright green large swelling buds. Another interesting species is swamp cottonwood (Populus heterophylla). The leaves of this bottomland species are large and measure up to seven inches. Another plant of note is chosenia (Chosenia arbutifolia), with its whitish young stems. This is the only species in the genus Chosenia, and it is very closely related to the willows.