Corkscrew Willow Tree

Getting To Know The Corkscrew Willow Tree – Salix Matsunda Tortusoa


The corkscrew willow tree is one of the cultivars salix matsunda (hankow willow trees), originally from China, named after the revered botanist Sadahisa Matsuda of Japan. Mr. Matsuda is responsible for cataloging the plants of Japan.

This particular willow arrived in the United States in 1923. Designated for USDA zones 4 to 8, it takes about 10 years to grow from sapling to maturity. Tortusoa is the botanical name, also called the dragon-claw willow. The hankow willow can grow to 25 feet in about 4 years.  It is preferable to allow it to grow multiple trunks, for greater fullness and beauty.  If desired it can be trained to a single trunk.  Pruning is required to keep in good form.

Tortusoa grows to about 30 feet tall by 20 feet wide.  There are cases where it will get as tall as 55 feet, however.  It’s valued for its twisting upright limbs in interesting patterns, and attractive in fall and winter as a silhouette, because of the spiraling appearance. The sticks and twigs are often cut and died in various colors, used as the base for botanical floral arrangements, such as table centerpieces. 

This willow is a deciduous tree, with shallow roots. The fast growth rate makes it useful as a border tree, where it can provide shade, although not deep, because of skeletal nature of the branches and twiggy limbs, even with full leaf growth in summer.

Some refer to the corkscrew willow tree as odd, unhinged and mysterious looking, as if it could just fly away on its own.  The key to success with this unique tree is to get it into the full sun it needs, with ample space to spread its multiple trunks, while also situating it in the most aesthetically pleasing location among the features in your yard.

Most any kind of soil is acceptable.  It can also take partial shade.   It is easy to propagate from a branch or cutting, having an extremely quick growth rate when propagated.  It prefers frequent watering and a moist environment but will tolerate partial drought.

When the tree is young, protect from pests that can kill it before it has a chance to become established.


The many cultivars’ names are a point of debate for nurseries, and confusion for gardeners

Shallow roots can invade and damage power lines or cement in the sidewalk or driveway.

Brittle branches can break off in wind. This is corrected by pruning to re-form an attractive shape. 

The hankow willow has a short life span.  As it ages, it can succumb to infestations and fungus as well as structural damage.

Leaf beetles, moths, or aphids can invade the corkscrew willow tree, but spraying is not always needed because predator insects will keep them under control.

Fungus, black spots; to control, prune out diseased branches and discard fallen, diseased leaves.

Gardeners have interest in this tree, but are aware that it must be replaced when accumulated damage cannot be survived.



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