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There was a comment on another question that referred to the Whomping Willow as a semi-sentient plant.

Are the actions the Whomping Willow takes inherent to that species of plant or is it simply an enchanted willow tree?

I always thought the latter but I'm not sure if I am forgetting something mentioned in the books.

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I believe when Ron and Harry crash the Ford Anglia into it in CoS, someone (Snape?) says something like "causing damage to a very rare species". I'm at work, so have no access to the book, but that may be a good place to start. (Wikia uses the word species, but uncited.) –  BoBTFish Mar 21 at 14:36

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"I noticed, in my search of the park, that considerable damage seems to have been done to a very valuable Whomping Willow,"

This is the quote by Professor Snape mentioned in the comment

This is the quote by Lockhart

"Just been showing Professor Sprout the right way to doctor a Whomping Willow! But I don't want you running away with the idea that I'm better at Herbology than she is! I just happen to have met several of these exotic plants on my travels . . ."

So at least according to him they are a species of plant and so, probably how the one planted in Hogwarts behaves is in it's nature

But then again, it's Lockhart so we can't be certain.

Here's a forum discussion on the same topic: The Whomping Willow

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Ah, looks like I was wrong. Still quite suggestive, but definitely not definitive. Thanks! –  BoBTFish Mar 21 at 15:14
    
I wish it was a more reliable source than Lockhart; but I think this is enough to imply that the Whomping Willow is a species. –  FGreg Mar 22 at 17:53

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