Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Northwest Native Willows (Salix)


 Plantae Plants


 Tracheobionta Vascular plants


 Spermatophyta Seed plants


 Magnoliophyta Flowering plants


 Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons






 Salicaceae Willow family


 Salix L. willow


Species of this genus native to the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, California and some Canadian Provinces

Salix L. Willow
Salix amygdaloides Andersson Peachleaf Willow
Salix arctica Pall. Arctic Willow
Salix bebbiana Sarg. Bebb Willow
Salix boothii Dorn Booth's Willow
Salix brachycarpa Nutt. Shortfruit Willow
Salix brachycarpa Nutt. var. brachycarpa Shortfruit Willow
Salix commutata Bebb Undergreen Willow
Salix delnortensis C.K. Schneid. Del Norte Willow
Salix drummondiana Barratt ex Hook. Drummond's Willow
Salix eastwoodiae Cockerell ex A. Heller Mountain Willow
Salix exigua Nutt. Narrowleaf Willow
Salix farriae C.R. Ball Farr's Willow
Salix geyeriana Andersson Geyer Willow
Salix glauca L. Grayleaf Willow
Salix glauca L. ssp. glauca Grayleaf Willow
Salix glauca L. ssp. glauca var. villosa (D. Don ex Hook.) Andersson Grayleaf Willow
Salix hookeriana Barratt ex Hook. Dune Willow
Salix laevigata Bebb Red Willow
Salix lasiolepis Benth. Arroyo Willow
Salix lasiolepis Benth. var. bigelovii (Torr.) Bebb Bigelow's Willow
Salix lasiolepis Benth. var. lasiolepis Arroyo Willow
Salix lemmonii Bebb Lemmon's Willow
Salix ligulifolia (C.R. Ball) C.R. Ball ex C.K. Schneid. Strapleaf Willow
Salix lucida Muhl. Shining Willow
Salix lucida Muhl. ssp. caudata (Nutt.) A.E. Murray Greenleaf Willow
Salix lucida Muhl. ssp. lasiandra (Benth.) A.E. Murray Pacific Willow
Salix lutea Nutt. Yellow Willow
Salix melanopsis Nutt. Dusky Willow
Salix monochroma C.R. Ball Onecolor Willow
Salix nivalis Hook. Snow Willow
Salix orestera C.K. Schneid. Sierra Willow
Salix pedicellaris Pursh Bog Willow
Salix pendulina Wender. [fragilis ?sepulcralis] Wisconsin Weeping Willow
Salix petrophila Rydb. Alpine Willow
Salix planifolia Pursh Diamondleaf Willow
Salix planifolia Pursh ssp. planifolia Diamondleaf Willow
Salix prolixa Andersson MacKenzie's Willow
Salix rubens Schrank (pro sp.) [alba fragilis] Hybrid Crack Willow
Salix scouleriana Barratt ex Hook. Scouler's Willow
Salix sepulcralis Simonkai [alba ?pendulina] Weeping Willow
Salix sessilifolia Nutt. Northwest Sandbar Willow
Salix sitchensis Sanson ex Bong. Sitka Willow
Salix tracyi C.R. Ball Tracy's Willow
Salix vestita Pursh Rock Willow
Salix wolfii Bebb Wolf's Willow


General Information For This Genus

Click on links at bottom of this page for photos and details of each plant.

Note: Throughout the years I've written short articles for our website's home pages (home pages are the front page of a website) about these plants. They are now included at the bottom of this page, and are illustrated by botanical drawings and paintings, some of which are from books published from 1500 - 1900.

Willows are among the mid-range layer of plants in the native garden, filling the space between the top canopy and the lower bushes. Choose trees and shrubs in a range of heights so the birds have several layers of canopy to hide in. This inner area is excellent for wildlife foods--a sampling of nuts, seeds, berry, and other fruits will set the wildlife table from now until spring.
Willow species, Dwarf Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina), sumac (Rhus), taller ceanothus species, and Twin Berry (Lonicera involucrata), for example, fill this bill admirably. In addition, willows are the gold standard for building furniture and garden structures.

In general, willows are easy to grow and they mature rapidly. They are excellent in many landscape applications. They are deciduous. In spring the bare branches sprout fuzzy catkins that are shades of grey and very soft to the touch, giving these plants the common name of 'pussy willows.' It is at this stage cuttings are often taken for long lasting decorations.

Plant a grove and cut some every year for crafts. Willows are pliant and strong and make beautiful wreaths and chairs and tables and trellis--the only limit is your imagination! When I was in grade school our teacher brought in some branches and showed us how to color the catkins with crayons.

Photo above center from Sten Porse

These little catkins eventually bloom and then unfold into leaves. As the leaves mature they take on the usual leaf shape for each species and all trace of the original furry texture is gone.

Willows perform an important service to rivers. See http://www.riverpartners.org/about/

"In natural riparian areas, willow thickets form after sandbar, arroyo and black willows colonize newly formed point bars. Other mixed riparian plants, especially young cottonwoods, may be found in this young, early successional habitat. Early successional habitat is preferred by many migratory songbirds.

"The young willows have multiple small, flexible stems which form thickets, or thick walls of stems. Willow thickets typically grow close to the river channel. In this location, willow thickets benefit both terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. They provide protection, nesting, and foraging for wildlife that access the river for water, and they release nutrients into the river that support aquatic life. Willows flower early in the season, providing an early food source for native pollinators."

Species Information For This Genus

Click on links below for photos and details of each plant.

As yet, not all northwest native salix are covered in this website, though that may be done some time in the future. For now, we have information about only five of our northwest native salix.

Salix hookeriana (Hooker's Willow) This petite willow is rounded and shrubby with stout, stiff branches. It remains small, reaching only 20' at maturity with a spread of up to 10.'
Salix lasiolepis (Arroyo Willow) This upright willow will become a small tree to 30 tall. It is found in low, wet, full sun areas of California USDA zones 8-9.
Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra (Pacific Willow) Pacific Willow is one of the larger native willows, reaching 50' tall with a slender, delicate form. It commonly develops several stems.
Salix scouleriana  (Scouler's Willow, Mountain Pussy Willow) A hardy, rapidly growing shrub that can attain 30' and wide spread of 10.'
Salix sitchensis (Sitka Willow) This is the most common willow of the Pacific northwest but its range also extends into the Rocky Mountains at low elevations and it is hardy to USDA zone 4.

April Song by Sarah Teasdale.

Willow, in your April gown 
Delicate and gleaming, 
Do you mind in years gone by 
All my dreaming? 

Spring was like a call to me 
That I could not answer, 
I was chained to loneliness, 
I, the dancer. 

Willow, twinkling in the sun, 
Still your leaves and hear me, 
I can answer spring at last, 
Love is near me!

Plant yourself some willows--a group or just a single tree.

Did you know?

Blue Willow pattern probably originated with Thomas Minton about 1780 in England. This soup tureen with stand is from Chetham and Robinson's Terni Series, c1830. Pink Willow is another pattern but not as favored among collectors.

From Homepage October 27, 2007

Willows are always in the background but never the star until spring when their furry little buds bloom on their bare stems. I remember in first grade our teacher had us color the soft little pussy willows with crayons. We made pink ones and blue ones, purple and green. We had to be so careful not to press too hard or the little furry blooms would come off.

How can nature make a plant that is so soft it feels like a kitten's paw?

Did you ever notice that some willows have red stems and some are bright yellow? Some are brown and some are grey. How very lovely in the winter landscape!

Did you know the catkins are different colors and sizes?

Hooker's Willow (Salix hookeriana) has yellow catkins 4" long

Arrowyo Willow (Salix lasiolepis) has yellow-white catkins 1-2" long

Pacific Willow (Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra) catkins are brighter yellow, male flowers are 2 1/2" and female flowers are up to 4 1/2"

Scouler's Willow (Salix scouleriana) blooms 1-2" long and yellowish-white

Sitka Willow (Salix sitchensis) catkins are cream to yellow, 2-3" long

Northwest native willows are fond of sandy, wet locations along streams or bogs. Their pliable stems are the best of all plants to make furniture and trellis and baskets and wreaths. Original People used part of the Arrowyo Willow for pain, much like aspirin. Sitka Willow is a good plant for smoking meat and fish. All native willows are useful in reclamation projects because they root well and hold the soil.

Photos We Share!

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