It’s a question we get asked all the time.
The Willow tree is a tree that is respected the world over for it’s stately grace, it’s hardy resilience to the elements and it’s stoic beauty. But why choose it for our campaign brand?
Firstly, from a PR point of view, it sounds pleasant on the ear. The gentle, soft sound of the alliteration of the two ‘Ws’ and the sibilance that links Willows with Wales is pleasant to hear. These factors help maintain our image as a Social Action Discussion Group. We’re not here to angrily protest in the streets, or forcefully thrust flyers into your hands as you walk by on the streets.
Our purpose here as activists, is to raise awareness for the use of Biomass Fuels as an alternative fuel source.
By bringing it to the attention of local Welsh farmers, we can help to transform the landscape here and also bring benefits to the farmers (and local people) that commit to change.
The Willow tree is often taken for granted. It’s reputation as ‘Old Man Willow‘ tars it with the same brush as the stately Oak tree. Laymen assume that it is a slow growing tree and associate it with the stubborn old tees that block planning permission requests. The truth about them couldn’t be further from this assumption.
There’s a great deal of historical data suggesting that Ancient civilisations used the generous supplies of its sap to relieve simple ailments. Native Americans were found to chew the tough twigs and bark, that the tree gives in abundance, in order to soothe headaches and fever.
After research in the the early 19th Century, scientists discovered that they could extract up to 30g of a substance they named salicin from 1.5kg of bark taken from a willow tree. 60 years or so later, at the dawn of the 20th Century, Felix Hoffman (working on behalf of the pharmaceutical company Bayer) developed the sap into a drug called Aspirin.
Today, Aspirin is one of the most highly produced drugs in the World, but salicin found in the sap is still used to create capsules and tea in order to combat anything from tendonitis to simple back pain.
Malleable yet strong, it’s branches can be woven tightly to create baskets, sofas and rustic decoration. Amongst all these properties, the Willow’s greatest asset is it’s extremely high in-energy out ratio. Much like it’s generous sap supply, the burning of mature Willow trees has been proven to produce a great deal more energy than it takes to grow. Saplings, taken from just a few cuttings, can grow up to 3m tall in their first season alone.
This is why the Willow, along with it’s distant cousin the Poplar, has been selected for use in Energy Forestry Systems, by several Energy Commissions, as one of the best trees to use in the creation of biomass fuels.
A symbol of Mother Nature’s generous spirit, the Willow has helped mankind for centuries.
Given the chance, it could help us for many more.