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of Michael Dodge

Salix 'The Hague'

erdingeri (caprea x daphnoides) x Salix gracilistyla

This is a female selection of crosses that were made in the Netherlands by Simon Godfried Albert Doorenbos, a famous Dutch Horticulturist and Director of the Hague Parks department from 1927 to 1957. This cross was made during that period.

For years it was listed incorrectly as a Salix x leucopithecia selection (a cross between Salix caprea and Salix gracilistyla). Thanks to Ton Rulkens who told me that this a cross between the hybrid Salix x erdingeri (daphnoides x caprea) and Salix gracilistyla. It is an inspired and extraordinary cross in that has large green female catkins at the tips of the stems.

An upright shrub with thick, gray-brown, densely pubescent branches to 20ft. This female hybrid has huge, showy catkins that are produced in masses before the leaves in March-April and are a good early nectar supplier for bees. Leaves are bright green above and glaucous beneath. Coppiced, this hybrid makes long rods suitable for making living willow structures and coarse basketry. Hardy to USDA Zone 3.

Ripe female catkins being visited by tiny wasps or flies for the nectar. Mid-April.

An uncoppiced plant smothered in pussy willows!


Young downy foliage and stems that, like ducklings, soon loose their down! Mid-August.

History of this Hybrid

''During the general meeting of the Dutch Dendrological Society in Nijkerk on March 1, 1980, L.K.J. Ilsink from Zeist, showed the meeting a number of branches of a Salix obtained by Doorenbos, a hybrid between Salix x erdingeri and S. gracilistyla, which were covered with catkins up to the ends of the branches. The Darthuizer Nurseries in Leersum and the company P.G. Zwijnenburg in Boskoop has cultivated this willow, both under the name Salix x hagensis, a name that is not validly published. In the latest edition of W.J. Bean: "Trees & Shrubs, hardy in the British Isles", this willow has been described as a cultivar. The correct name is now: Salix 'The Hague'. According to a statement from the maker, in the first phase Salix gracilistyla was used as pollen parent and crossed with S. x erdingeri as mother-plant. Work continued with the best seedlings. In 1953, the Wageningen Botanical Gardens received plants of this F2 hybrid under the name Salix gracilistyla x S. erdingeri. No valid hybrid name is known for such a cross. So we stick to Salix 'The Hague'. During a visit to Boskoop (Proefstation, firm C. Esveld and firm P.G. Zwijnenburg) on September 11, 1973, Doorenbos once again provided the same information about the parents of his willow, as he did in 1953 at the Botanical Gardens in Wageningen. Salix 'The Hague' probably was obtained before the second world war.''

Young female catkins on The Hague Willow. Mid-late -April

The yellow-green 'dots' on the catkins (at left) are the stigmas waiting for bees to bring pollen.

As they mature these 'dots' red. Late-April

They entice bees with the sweet smell of nectar!

Wonderful bright red foliage of the new growth and reticulate (crinkly) leaves in maturity.

Very young growth with near white stems and a perfect leaf with prominent white central vein!

Undersides of the leaves are glaucous blue and have small white hairs to small to see with the naked eye.

In September the flowers buds develop in the axils of the leaves. Beside them are a pair of leafy stipules.

In a sunny location some flower buds will split open in October and out will pop the the hairs that protect the sensitive parts.

Gradually the bud scales lose their hairs during winter.

Catkins expanding in mid-April.

Pussy willows in early-April.