One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Any willow (genus Salix) that typically grows close to water, as (in Europe) the osier, S. viminalis, and white willow, S. alba, and (in North America) black willow, S. nigra.
2Chiefly North American. Either of two herbaceous perennials that typically grow in shallow water at stream or pond margins: (a) (more fully "American water willow") Justicia americana (family Acanthaceae); (b) swamp loosestrife, Decodon verticillatus (family Lythraceae). Also: any other plant of the genus Justicia, found mainly in tropical and subtropical America.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Leonard Mascall (d. 1589), translator and author. From water + willow.
water willow/ˈwɔːtə ˌwɪləʊ/
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