Salgueiro, native from Portugal and Spain, is a shrub that can reach up to 3 m high. The leaves are of a moderate width and have the underside with a fluff of hair that gives it a whitish appearance.
Primarily growing on a temperate biome, it is found on riverbanks, especially permanent torrential watercourses, with unstable banks, or temporary watercourses, thus needing permanent humidity and notwithstanding extreme temperatures. Populations are sparse and not very dense in the Guadiana basin; in the Sado basin they form continuous galleries; in the Xarrama River it is uncommon; but it is also present in the Tagus basin.
Usually very branched from the base, it is hand harvested with the help of secateurs between November and February. After being harvested, the bark is removed from the willow and later stripped and dried. To remove willow bark, for example, one may use a splint made from a thicker willow stick, folded in half. Before using it, it has to be soaked in water and always kept moistened while working with it.Traditionally, willow is used for crafting smaller-scale baskets.
Alongside basket willow, it is one of the most flexible and versatile natural fibres for use in basket making, making it one of the most common raw materials used in fine basketry in Portugal. These baskets are traditionally associated with household use, like sewing, bread, fruit, cheese or picnic baskets, and, as such, they were traditionally crafted by women. Some of the threats found to this species is the habitat alteration due to degradation of the banks of watercourses, and the cutting to reduce bird populations that are harmful to agriculture in neighbouring fields. There are no industrial producers or suppliers and it is 100% biodegradable if not mixed with any chemical product or material.
Photo by Pedro Arsénio