Members of the genus Salix are commonly known as willows. These woody plants range in size from the imposing weeping willow tree to small shrubs. While not fussy about soil quality, they generally require moderate to wet soil moisture. In the wild, willows are commonly found near streams, rivers and ponds. In cultivation, willows are often used to control erosion in such areas. They are easily propagated from cuttings; willows root and grow quickly.
Of the estimated 350 species in the genus Salix, most are native to the cooler, temperate and sub-polar regions of Asia, Europe and North America. Cross species hybridization occurs both naturally and through human intervention, which can make taxonomic distinctions challenging. The Chicago Botanic Garden's collection contains almost 150 varieties among its more than 8,000 willows.