Henry David Thoreau

A Natural Willow Hedge

February 14, 1856
Today Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal about a natural willow hedge.

"I was struck today by the size and continuousness of the natural willow hedge on the east side of the railroad causeway...

Some twelve years ago, when that causeway was built through the meadows, there were no willows there or near there, but now, just at the foot of the sand-bank, where it meets the meadow, and on the line of the fence, quite a dense willow hedge has planted itself.

I used to think that the seeds were brought with the sand from the Deep Cut in the woods, but there is no golden willow there; but now I think that the seeds have been blown hither from a distance, and lodged against the foot of the bank, just as the snow-drift accumulates there...

They plant themselves here solely, and not in the open meadow, as exclusively as along the shores of a river. The sand-bank is a shore to them, and the meadow a lake.

How impatient, how rampant, how precocious these osiers ("OH-see-ers")! They have hardly made two shoots from the sand in as many springs when silvery catkins burst out along them, and anon golden blossoms and downy seeds, spreading their race with incredible rapidity. Thus they multiply and clan together. Thus they take advantage even of the railroad, which elsewhere disturbs and invades their domains.

May I ever be in as good spirits as a willow! How tenacious of life! How withy! How soon it gets over its hurts! They never despair. Is there no moisture longer in nature which they can transmute into sap?

They are emblems of youth, joy, and everlasting life. Scarcely is their growth restrained by winter, but their silvery down peeps forth in the warmest days in January."


Willow (Salix) trees are native to northern China. They can reproduce from seeds, broken twigs, or even leaves. A speedy grower, Willows can grow 10 feet in a single year.

In the spring, weeping Willows silver-tinged green catkins appear on the branches. The fuzzy catkins that contain either male or female flowers depending on the sex of the tree. You can force cuttings of willows to bloom by bringing them indoors. The catkins will open and flower in a vase of water.

Don't forget to save your willow water for rooting. Willow water contains a natural rooting hormone. A mix of 50% fresh water and 50% willow water is an excellent solution to get cuttings to root.

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Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau

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