Salix alba, White willow, Swallow tailed willow,
Hebrew: ערבה לבנה, Arabic: الصفصاف الأبيض

Scientific name:  Salix alba L.
Common name:  White willow, Swallow tailed willow
Hebrew name:   ערבה לבנה, Aravah
Arabic name:  اصفصاف, Safsaf
Family:   Salicaceae, ערבתיים

Israel, Flowers, Wildflowers, Flora

Life form:  Phanerophyte, tree
Leaves:  Alternate, entire, dentate
Flowers:  No petals and tepals
Flowering Period:   March, April, May, June
Habitat:  Humid habitats
Distribution:   The Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands
Chorotype:   Euro-Siberian - Med - Irano-Turanian
Summer shedding:  Perenating

Salix alba, White willow, Swallow tailed willow, ערבה לבנה ,الصفصاف الأبيض


Derivation of the botanical name:
Salix, a willow-tree.
alba, white.
  • The standard author abbreviation L. is used to indicate Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy.
Willow boughs are among the 'four species' which the Hebrews were commanded to take at the Feast of Tabernacles.

The foliage of the Aravah (willow) and Euphrates poplar (Tzaftzafah) look similar and that's why they are mixed up.
The terms Aravah and Tzaftzafah are interchangeable. What was once called Aravah is now called Tzaftzafah, and what was called Tzaftzafah is now called Aravah. The original Aravah is a willow branch that has a red stem and long smooth leaves, and the Aravah grows near the river. The Tzaftzafah has a white stem and it leaves are round and jagged.
The 'four species' requires an Aravah as one of the four, and a Tzaftzafah is not valid for use.

Christian churches in northwestern Europe often used willow branches in place of palms in the ceremonies on Palm Sunday (Sunday before Easter).

Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, an industrial synthesis of salicin, which occurs naturally in white willow (Salix alba).
Two Italians, Brugnatelli and Fontana, had in fact already obtained salicin in 1826, but in a highly impure form. By 1829, [French chemist] Henri Leroux had improved the extraction procedure to obtain about 30g from 1.5kg of bark. In 1838, Raffaele Piria (1814 – 1865), an Italian chemist, then working at the Sorbonne in Paris, split salicin into a sugar and an aromatic component (salicylaldehyde) and converted the latter, by hydrolysis and oxidation, to an acid of crystallised colourless needles, which he named salicylic acid."
In the laboratory, Carl Jacob Löwig (1803 – 1890), a German chemist, treated salicin with acid--as salicin is acted on in the human stomach--to make salicylic acid, and about that time salicylic acid was also discovered occurring naturally in a European species of Spiraea (dropwort). Salicylic acid had major medicinal uses and soon became a panacea, a medication which can heal any problem.
A different compound was synthesized in 1853 by Carl von Gerhardt by putting an acetyl group on salicylic acid, making acetylsalicylic acid.
In 1893, Felix Hoffman (1868 – 1946), an employee of Friedrich Bayer and Company, found an easier way to make this chemical salt and then tested it on his father, who had arthritis. In 1899, Bayer, which started in 1863 as a dye production company, marketed this medicine as "aspirin"--coming from the words 'acetyl' and Spiraea.
Aspirin was a patented name by Bayer, but is now a vernacular name.

Bible resources:
  1. Leviticus 23:40
    On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.
  2. Job 40:22
    The lotuses conceal it in their shadow; the poplars by the stream surround it.
  3. Isaiah 15:7
    So the wealth they have acquired and stored up they carry away over the Ravine of the Poplars.
  4. Isaiah 44:3
    For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
  5. Isaiah 44:4
    They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.
  6. Psalm 137:1-2
    By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
    There on the poplars we hung our harps.