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There are about 330 to 500 species of Salix worldwide, predominately in temperate and arctic zones, but also in subtropical and tropical zones. Most species of Salix are native to China (c. 275 species), the former Soviet Union (c. 120 species), North America (c. 100 species) and Europe (c. 65 species). Salix is a difficult genus to identify at the species level due to considerable individual variability and polymorphism, interspecific hybridization and polyploidy. Basket willow, Salix viminalis, was introduced in the early 1700s to Sweden because it was well suited for basket production. This species is now mostly used for biomass production of energy crops because it has an extraordinarily fast growth habit.

Adaptations to a wide range of climates make willows suitable for cultivation in many regions of the world. In addition, extensive exchange of willow species between continents has occurred through human activities especially since colonial times and thereafter.

In Sweden there are currently several commercial willow varieties on the marked that are suitable for cultivation under the Swedish climate conditions.


Biomass plantations of willow (Salix) are today a common view in the agricultural landscape of south and central Sweden. Photo: N-E Nordh.