Willow and Myrtle – For Sukkot
Q: Jews use willow branches each fall in our Sukkot celebrations. We import them each year but it’s very annoying that the leaves never last the whole week. Can I grow the proper willows in Athens GA?
A: There are hundreds of different kinds of willows but it seems that river willow, Salix acmophylla, and white willow, Salix alba, are likely the willows mentioned in the Bible.
Weeping willow is not an appropriate plant, according to some scholars.
I base this answer on commentary by Dr. Zohar Amar in HaMa`yan, Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible, Musselman’s Plants of the Bible and the Quran and guidance from the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
White willow should grow fine in Athens. An individual plant may be short-lived due to summer heat but you can always root branches to propagate the species.
Myrtle, Myrtus communis, is a bit trickier for your part of the state. It might grow fine in a protected spot but severe cold will kill it. Our native wax myrtle is Morella cerifera and is not a true myrtle.