Family: Salicaceae
Common names:
safsaf willow, Cape willow, Kaapse wilger

Salix mucronata

This graceful semi-deciduous to evergreen tree grows up to 15m with an open crown and slightly drooping branches. Older trees have fissured, brown bark, while younger trees have smooth, green-red bark. The leaves are simple, alternate and taper to both ends. They are glossy, dark green above and light green below. The leaf margins are serrated. Flowers appear in short spikes with males and females on separate trees. The male spikes are dense, yellowish and can be up to 50mm in length. The greenish coloured female spikes are shorter and thicker. The fruit is a small capsule, which splits to release seeds covered with white fluff.

alix mucronata on the banks of the  Orange RiverThe safsaf willow may be found growing along streams and riverbanks in much of the south east, south, and south west Cape, specifically along the Kei and Bashee Rivers, the Sundays River, the Fish River, the Breede River and the Groot and Klein Berg rivers.

Propagation is most rapidly achieved through cultivation of cuttings or trunchelons, but seeds may be sown in trays filled with river sand. The tree can withstand both frost and drought.

A good fodder tree, the safsaf willow is host to the larvae of the common orange and black butterfly. Leaves are eaten by livestock and humans have developed various medicinal uses for the tree: Roots are used in medicines that help cure stomach pains, fever and headaches. Aspirin, for example, is a derivative of the willow species. Traditional uses include, applying bark powder to burns, and brewing tea from the leaves to treat rheumatism. The tea also acts as a mild laxative. Young tree branches are used to make baskets and the wood is carved to make household, as well as decorative items.


SANBI Home © S A National Biodiversity Institute