Basket Willow

06_Vime

Basket willow, common osier or osier, is a species of willow native to Europe, Western Asia, and the Himalayas. Along with other related willows, the flexible twigs are commonly used in basketry, giving rise to its alternative common name of "basket willow".

Name of Material in the local and Latin language
Vime, Salix viminalis L.
Type of Material
Organic
Commonly Found Locations
Very few places spread along Portugal, more specifically in the centre, in the north, in Madeira Island and on the Azores archipelago. It is commonly found by streams and other wet places.

Colour
Young shoots present orange coloured bark.
Density
Considered a fast-growing ‘soft wood’ plant, branch density should not reach 0.60 g/cm3 wood density (KLEYER et al. 2008).
Hardness
Young branches are used in basketry, given its flexibility and resistance.

Industrial and Crafts Applications
Traditionally, basket willow is used for crafting baskets and furniture, including chairs, sofas, and tables. Among all basket-weaving materials, it is one of the most flexible and versatile.
Historical or Cultural Uses
Basket willow is employed in a wide variety of pieces, ranging from rugged wicker baskets, typically crafted from branches of basket willow with the bark intact. These are commonly utilized for utilitarian purposes in agriculture, fishing, and hunting activities. Additionally, basket willow is used in fine basketry for more decorative and domestic purposes. The creation of rugged baskets is typically carried out by men, while both men and women are involved in crafting the more decorative and domestic ones.
Environmental Impact
Not known

Extraction Methods
Basket willow is hand-harvested with the help of secateurs between November and February.
Processing Techniques
Basket willow is produced much like all agriculture. The shrubs sprout every year, and need to be cut between the beginning and the end of winter. In March, they start sprouting again and have to be looked after over Spring and Summer in order to grow well until August. Once cut, the treatment is different depending on what sort of color one’s aiming at. For a darker shade, the wicker is boiled in water for 8 to 10 hours, then peeled and stored. For the so-called “white”, stems are staked into the ground and taken out in April/May to be peeled then. It then needs to be stored in a very dry place to be used throughout the year.
Recycling and Waste Management
100% biodegradable if not mixed with any chemical product or material.

Interesting Facts or Historical Anecdotes
Despite having a larger presence in Gonçalo, Guarda, and Camacha in Madeira, wicker basketry is one of the most common crafts in Portugal, with basket weavers using this raw material found throughout the country. While many craftspeople currently import willow from Chile, there are a few artisans who choose to cultivate their own.
  • PT_Vime_Nature Profile_02©Ines Silva Sa

    Vime (basket willow, Salix viminalis L.) is a vegetable fiber that comes from the osier or willow tree.

  • PT_Vime_Nature Profile_03©Ines Silva Sa

    The terminology “willow” refers to the spontaneous plant, “osier” refers to the plant when it is cultivated for basketry production. These take the form of trees or shrubs, with generally flexible branches, which grow close to water, on the banks of rivers and streams.

Vime (basket willow, Salix viminalis L.) is a vegetable fiber that comes from the osier or willow tree. The terminology “willow” refers to the spontaneous plant, “osier” refers to the plant when it is cultivated for basketry production.

These take the form of trees or shrubs, with generally flexible branches, which grow close to water, on the banks of rivers and streams.
Basket willow is a species of willow native to Europe, Western Asia, and the Himalayas. Along with other related willows, the flexible twigs are commonly used in basketry, giving rise to its alternative common name of “basket willow”. There are several species of osiers or willows – around 70 identified in Europe.

In Portugal, 12 native species and 5 exotic species introduced into the territory have been identified, in addition to several hybrid varieties, totaling 57 varieties, and are found in very few places spread along Portugal, more specifically in the center, in the north, on Madeira Island, and in the Azores archipelago.

This raw material is used in various colors, but also in different lengths and thicknesses of the sticks. The seasonality of cutting poles varies depending on the geographical area. The annual harvest in Gonçalo, Guarda, is carried out during the month of February, at a time when the sticks still have no sap.
In the Algarve, in Aljezur, it is said that the wicker is harvested during the month of August to prevent bug infestations.

Basket willow is produced much like all agriculture. The shrubs sprout every year, and need to be cut between the beginning and the end of winter. In March, they start sprouting again and have to be looked after over Spring and Summer in order to grow well until August.

Despite having a larger presence in Gonçalo, Guarda, and Camacha in Madeira, wicker basketry is one of the most common crafts in Portugal, with basket weavers using this raw material found throughout the country. While many craftspeople currently import willow from Chile, there are a few artisans who choose to cultivate their own.

Traditionally, basket willow is used for crafting baskets and furniture, ranging from rugged wicker baskets, typically crafted from branches of basket willow with the bark intact, to fine basketry for more decorative and domestic purposes including chairs, sofas, and tables. The creation of rugged baskets is typically carried out by men, while both men and women are involved in crafting the more decorative and domestic ones. Among all basket-weaving materials, it is one of the most flexible and versatile.

 

References:

KLEYER, M., BEKKER, R.M., KNEVEL, I.C., BAKKER, J.P, THOMPSON, K., SONNENSCHEIN, M., POSCHLOD, P., VAN GROENENDAEL, J.M., KLIMES, L., KLIMESOVÁ, J., KLOTZ, S., RUSCH, G.M., HERMY, M., ADRIAENS, D., BOEDELTJE, G., BOSSUYT, B., DANNEMANN, A., ENDELS, P., GÖTZENBERGER, L., HODGSON, J.G., JACKEL, A-K., KÜHN, I., KUNZMANN, D., OZINGA, W.A., RÖMERMANN, C., STADLER, M., SCHLEGELMILCH, J., STEENDAM, H.J., TACKENBERG, O., WILMANN, B., CORNELISSEN, J.H.C., ERIKSSON, O., GARNIER, E., PECO, B. (2008). The LEDA Traitbase: A database of life-history traits of Northwest European flora. Journal of Ecology 96: 1266-1274.

  • PT_Vime_Nature Profile_01©Ines Silva Sa

    Once cut, the treatment is different depending on what sort of color one’s aiming at.

  • PT_Vime_Nature Profile_04©Jenna Duffy

    For a darker shade, the wicker is boiled in water for 8 to 10 hours, then peeled and stored. For the so-called “white”, stems are staked into the ground and taken out in April/May to be peeled then. It then needs to be stored in a very dry place to be used throughout the year.

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