Salix udensis ‘Sekka’
(syn. S. sacchalenensis 'Sekka')
uden = the Uden Region of Siberia
sekka = ? perhaps in honor of Kamisaka Sekka, a famous 19-20thC Japanese artist
Fantail, Fishtail or Dragon-tail Willow
The species from which this selection was derived is native to northeastern Asia including eastern Siberia, Kamchatka, northeastern China and northern Japan. ‘Sekka’ is a fabulous freaky fascinating fasciated form and it is not clear where or when this aberration appeared; it is certainly a strange one, but a standout-in all seasons. The habit of the plant is to grow with normal stems, then weirdly, shoots develop what are called fasciated stems; that is, instead of producing normal shoots, stems appear en masse but all joined together in what has been described as a dragon-tail or fantail pattern—hence the common names. No one is sure what causes this (see below), but it happens with regularity on this plant. Not all stems are fasciated, but out of ‘normal’ stems mutants stems appear whenever-wherever they feel like it! Please note: after planting cuttings it often takes 3-4 years for the fasciation to appear.
The foliage is really beautiful, with closely spaced, shiny bright green lance-shaped leaves arranged in a forward-pointing herring-bone pattern on arching twigs. The leaves grow to 6in long and 1in wide normally, but are often reduced in size on the crested part of the plant. Foliage stays green very late in the season before turning bright yellow. In late winter, stems are covered in pinky-gray catkins in profusion. These showy, silvery male catkins are interspersed in clusters along the many stems. The plant can eventually grow to 8-10ft tall and 12-15ft wide, but can be kept smaller with frequent pruning. In our experience, the crested parts don’t root as easily as the ‘normal’ stems, therefore the cuttings we ship will be ‘normal’; but don’t worry, they eventually develop the weirdo look, but it may take 2-3 years!. Warning! Deer like to feed on this, so cover the plants with blueberry netting in winter. Hardy to USDA Zone 4.
USES: A curious ornamental willow that makes a great specimen plant, especially by water or a building where its shadows can make interesting patterns on a wall. The deep mahogany to burgundy stems are highly prized by flower arrangements and a conversation piece for any gardener or non-gardener. It is much admires by florists for Ikebana floral arrangements and in winter containers outdoors.
fasciation = cresting
This relatively rare condition is where the growing point of a plant "freaks out" into multiple stems fused together instead of growing into a single stem. This mutation can be due to a number of causes including hormonal imbalance, genetic mutation, bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Last winter I cut back a Chamisa plant in Santa Fe and it developed fasciated stems. So maybe I carried it on my pruners!!!
Fascinating fasciated stems with male catkins interspersed along the several fused stems. Early-April.
Foliage growing in a confused group from fasciated stems. Late-October.
Below: male catkins in various stages of development. Because of the fasciation they are often produced in tight clusters, but on regular stems they are perfectly "normal" looking! Bees love them and don't care a hoot about how they're displayed! Mid-April to early-May.
The Wonderful World of Willows
Vermont Willow Nursery
$14.50 per bundle of 5
Below are more peculiar examples of the growth of 'Sekka'
If anyone else has really stunning photographs of 'Sekka' in an Ikebana flower arrangement I will trade you a dozen stems of 'Sekka' for use of the photo on this page, with due credit of course!
April flower buds popping open even though snow is still on the ground!
These are "normal" shoots of 'Sekka'
and what I would expect the species
Salix udensis to look like. Early-May,
This is an abnormal catkin of 'Sekka' flowering in August!
above and below: We often get "normal" shoots on 'Sekka',
especially on young plants from cuttings.
Still delightful, but not as extraordinary! Early-May.
Exhibits using 'Sekka' in the NC Chapter of the Ikebana Society, Charlotte.
Photos by Sarah Spaid Ishida, member.
for Spring 2021