Salix × sepulcralis - weeping willow
|style="background:#Template:Taxobox colour;" | Scientific classification|
Willows, sallows and osiers form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Most species are known as willow, but some narrow-leaved shrub species are called osier, and some broader-leaved species are called sallow (the latter name is derived from the Latin word salix, willow). Some willows (particularly arctic and alpine species), are low-growing or creeping shrubs; for example the dwarf willow (Salix herbacea) rarely exceeds 6 cm in height, though spreading widely across the ground.
Willows are very cross-fertile and numerous hybrids occur, both naturally and in cultivation. A well known example is the weeping willow (Salix × sepulcralis), very widely planted as an ornamental tree, which is a hybrid of a Chinese species and a European species – Peking willow and white willow.
The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the 5th century BC. Native Americans across the American continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. This is because they contain salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.
In 1763 its medicinal properties were observed by the Reverend Edward Stone in England. He notified the Royal Society who published his findings. The active extract of the bark, called salicin, was isolated to its crystalline form in 1828 by Henri Leroux, a French pharmacist, and Raffaele Piria, an Italian chemist, who then succeeded in separating out the acid in its pure state. Salicin is acidic when in a saturated solution in water (pH = 2.4), and is called salicylic acid for that reason.
In 1897 Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin (in his case derived from the Spiraea plant), which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally Acetylsalicylic acid, was named aspirin by Hoffmann's employer Bayer AG. This gave rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Salix alba at plants for a future
- Salix purpurea at plants for a future
- 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica (but see Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica_Eleventh_Edition#Versions_of_this_public_domain_work_claiming_copyright|this)
- Salix caroliniana images at bioimages.vanderbilt.edu
- Salix nigra images at bioimages.vanderbilt.edu
- Mabberley, D.J. 1997. The Plant Book. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
- James Breasted (English translation). "The Edwin Smith Papyrus". Retrieved 2007-06-09.
- "An aspirin a day keeps the doctor at bay: The world's first blockbuster drug is a hundred years old this week". Retrieved 2007-06-09.
- Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 393–395.
- Newsholme, C. (1992). Willows: The Genus Salix. ISBN 0-88192-565-9
- Warren-Wren, S.C. (1992). The Complete Book of Willows. ISBN 0-498-01262-X
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