Last March, I bought a few dried stem of Japanese fantail willow (Salix udensis) at a local floral store to use in our garden club’s Asian floral arrangement workshop. It is a willow shrub that seems to grow normally but for some reason that is not fully understood, mutant stems begin to appear on an otherwise normal looking plant. Here and there, one or more stems begin to merge together or fasciate into flat stems that can end in unusual curls. Fasciation can occur on any plant and experts believe the effect may be caused by either hormones, genes, bacteria, fungus, virus or the environment.
The stems I purchased last year were used in arrangements, then put away to dry for future arrangements… that is all except one tiny twig. That one twig I placed in a glass of water and sat it in a sunny window to root.
It did produce fine roots and in the spring, I plopped it into the garden when the soil had warmed enough to support the plant. Like all willows, it grew fast.
When it was about 2 1/2-ft tall, I noticed one thick shoot on the side was beginning to widen and merge multiple small stems that soon mutated into a beautiful elongated fantail. Success! I was delighted but totally surprised because I’d read that it usually will take 3 to 4 years to develop this weird condition.
Soon the shrub will turn a golden yellow and the leaves will drop. In late winter, it will develop a profusion of tiny puffs of pussy willow catkins. It is then that I’ll harvest the stem to incorporate into my floral decorations…… and next spring I’ll donate the shrub as a transplant to my daughter who has much more garden space than I.
In her lovely landscape will be an endless supply of fantail willow for both of us!