Plant Guide > Trees > Willows > Black Willow Tree

Black Willow Tree

Black Willow TreeBlack Willow (Salix nigra, Marsh.)-Medium-sized tree, 50 to 100 feet high, but usually smaller. Twigs slender, brittle at base. Bark dark brown, flaky, deeply furrowed, often shaggy. Wood light reddish brown, weak, soft, fine grained. Buds small, acute, red-brown. Leaves narrowly lanceolate, acuminate at apex, finely and evenly serrate, green on both sides; petioles short, 2 1/2 to 5 inches long; stipules leaf-like, semi heart shaped or crescent shaped, deciduous or persistent. Flowers with leaves, on short lateral wigs, dioecious; catkins 1 to 3 inches long, pencillike, erect; ovaries short, distinct, smooth; stamens 3 to 7; scales oval, hairy, deciduous. Fruit loose racemed capsules, ovoid, tapering; seeds minute. Preferred habitat, borders of lakes and streams. Distribution, Newfoundland to Florida, west to Rocky Mountains, reappearing in California.

The black willow earns its name by the black bark of old trees. An interesting feature of the foliage is the pair of leaf-like, heartshaped stipules that persist throughout the summer, as a rule, at the base of each leaf. Among narrow-leaved willows this is the only one with foliage uniformly green on bath sides. The leaves are often curved like a sickle. No willow has a wider distribution than this intrepid species, which takes possession of stream borders, climbs mountains and crosses arid plains to plant itself in new territory. It is one of the largest of our native species when it comes to maturity.

The Black Willow (S. longipes, Anders.) differs from S. nigra in the wider, more typically lanceolate leaf and the silvery lining which lightens the foliage mass wonderfully as the wind plays among the leaves. The two heart-shaped stipules are usually persistent; they can always be found near the tips of growing shoots, even in midsummer. The centre of this tree's distribution is in the Ozark Mountains. Rocky banks of streams are its preferred habitat. It grows, a small tree, from Washington, D. C., to Florida, and west to Missouri and New Mexico.

The Black Willow (S. laevigata, Bebb.) is recognisable by its pale blue-green, leathery leaves, which are pale and glaucous beneath and finely serrate or almost entire on the margins. It is a native of California, following streams on the western slopes of the Sierras. It is rarely more than 40 feet high, averaging a little over half that height.

Black Willow Tree picture