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A pollarded willow with a crop of withies ready for harvest

Withy or withe [sic] is a strong flexible willow stem that is typically used in thatching and for gardening.

Several species and hybrid cultivars of willows (often known as osiers) are grown for withy production; typical species include Salix acutifolia, Salix daphnoides, Salix × mollissima, Salix purpurea, Salix triandra, and Salix viminalis.[1]

The term is also sometimes used to describe any type of flexible rod used in rural crafts such as hazel or ash.

Withies are traditionally used to mark minor tidal channels in UK harbours and estuaries. In many places they are still in use today and are often marked on navigation charts. At high tide the tops of a line of withies stuck in the mud on one or both sides of the channel will show above water to indicate where the deeper water lies. International navigation chart symbols for withies (port and starboard) are pictured.

NChart-Symbol INT Withy Port
NChart-Symbol INT Withy Starboard

Places such as Wythenshawe and Withy Grove in Manchester take their names from the willow woods and groves that grew there in earlier times. The Somerset Levels are now the only area in the UK where basket willow is grown commercially.

See also[edit]

References and external links[edit]

  1. ^ Meikle, R. D. (1984). Willows and Poplars of Great Britain and Ireland. BSBI Handbook No. 4. ISBN 0-901158-07-0.