There is a large group of crosses between white willow (S. alba) and crack willow (S. euxina), of which golden willow ‘Basfordiana’ is one, distinguishable from the rest of the group mainly by its yellow-orange branches. The colour is at its brightest in late winter/early spring in the youngest branches, one of the reasons for cutting back hard, producing strongly coloured suckers. If allowed to grow freely golden willow can achieve heights of 25m (80 ft.) with a trunk a metre in diameter.
The species was first discovered by W. Scaling, a basket-weaver in Britain in the 1860s. In Finland, it has been grown at least since the 1920s, often from different sources, and incorrectly called Salix alba ‘Vitellina’. Currently at Mustila, there are three golden willows which differ slightly: in size, in sex, in habit, in leaf shape and in branch colour – and probably in hardiness, too.