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Update on the Lichfield Willow

You may remember our earlier piece on the Lichfield, or Johnson’s, Willow, a tree in England that captured Elizabeth’s imagination and led to her writing of two “Odes to the Litchfield Willow” (Elizabeth added the “t”). Our contact in England, John Winterton, has been hard at work negotiating a plan to get a descendent of the original willow to the United States. There is a general prohibition on importing willow cuttings into the US due to fear of spreading diseases, so they can only be brought in under very limited circumstances and with a very strict 2-year quarantine period. Winterton, who is the Heritage Liaison Officer for the Johnson Society, was able to connect with Vassar College and the USDA Plant Germplasm Quarantine Program, who have agreed to partner in the endeavor. The Germplasm Unit, outside of Washington, DC, will take the twigs being sent from England, make cuttings, propagate, and grow them. If in two years there are no issues with the saplings, they will be sent to Vassar College, who will retain some “base stock” for future use within the US, and distribute others, including the one which will be planted at Graeme Park.

The 4th generation Johnson’s Willow, planted in Lichfield in 1959, was felled on October 8, 2021 because of severe decay. They planted the 5th generation willow on November 2 with a planting ceremony (see video HERE and additional photos HERE). The twigs that are on their way to the USDA were made from this 5th generation tree, so our willow will be six degrees of separation from the willow that inspired Elizabeth when she wrote her odes in 1787. Stay tuned for the willow’s arrival, sometime in 2024 – it’s almost as exciting as Willow the cat’s arrival at the White House.

WillowCutting2 Tray of cuttings for USA-LR (002)





Photos of Paul Niven, Community Gardner, Beacon Park, making the cuttings from the 5th generation Johnson’s Willow, which was planted in Lichfield, England on November 2, 2021, and the 16 twigs being shipped to the USDA for propagation and quarantine.