The Salix babylonica, a popular weeping willow, the one referenced in Psalm 137, came to America in a fascinating way. From Babylon, where this particular willow tree grows naturally, baskets were crafted from the supple willow withers (branches). One such basket was sent to Lady Suffolk in the early 18th century by an unknown Turk.
By chance Alexander Pope, the English poet, was present when the basket containing figs was presented to Lady Suffolk. Pope took one of the "wythes" (as he called it) from the willow basket and planted it in his garden by the Thames River.
The supple branches sprouted leaves and eventually grew into a most beautiful willow tree--the first such tree seen in all of England.
America still consisted of 13 colonies when a British officer snapped a twig from Pope's willow just before leaving for the colonies. When he arrived in Virginia he planted the willow wither on the Abingdon lands (where the Ronald Reagan National Airport stands today) where it became the ancestor of, surely, millions of the every-popular salix babylonica.
Willow bark provides salicylic acid from which aspirin was originally made. It has been a pain remedy since the Greeks used it over 2,500 years ago.
NOTE: There are several willows such as the golden weeping willow (Salix alba tristis), the Wisconsin weeping willow (Salix blanda), and the Thurlow weeping willow (Salix elegantissima). This account refers only to the popular Babylon weeping willow (Salix babylonica).
There is a willow oak tree with leaves like the willow except that the leaves are smooth and sport a hair-like tip on the end. The willow oak can grow to 150 feet. They grow along the eastern U.S.
When the writer sees a tiny bit of green on the wythes he knows for sure that spring has sprung.
The writer learned the follow when he was a Scout. The bark of the white willow (Salix alba) contains a compound called salicin. (Alba is Latin for white.) Because it was expensive and time-consuming to extract salicin from the bark a synthetic salicylic acid was developed in Germany in 1852. (Salicin, in the body, is converted to salicylic acid).
The synthetic form was hard on the stomach lining and occasionally led to ulcers and bleeding.
Bayer, in Germany, created a synthetic that was less harsh on the stomach and called it acetylsalicylic acid, and this is mass-produced form carrying the name of aspirin.
White willow bark was used in ancient Egypt for inflammation and, in Greece, Hippocrates wrote concerning the medical uses of the plant.
White willow bark is used for pain from fever, back pain, flu, and joint pain.
The tree is called white willow because of the color of the leaves that have fine white hairs.