J. A. Pitcher and J. S. McKnight
Black willow (Salix nigra) is the largest and the only commercially important willow of about 90 species native to North America. It is more distinctly a tree throughout its range than any other native willow; 27 species attain tree size in only part of their range (3). Other names sometimes used are swamp willow, Goodding willow, southwestern black willow, Dudley willow, and sauz (Spanish). This short-lived, fast-growing tree reaches its maximum size and development in the lower Mississippi River Valley and bottom lands of the Gulf Coastal Plain (4). Stringent requirements of seed germination and seedling establishment limit black willow to wet soils near water courses (5), especially floodplains, where it often grows in pure stands. Black willow is used for a variety of wooden products and the tree, with its dense root system, is excellent for stabilizing eroding lands.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
parts of Canada, and Mexico. Its range extends west from southern New
Brunswick and central Maine to Quebec, southern Ontario, central
Michigan, southeastern Minnesota, and eastern North Dakota. It occurs
south and west to the Rio Grande just below its confluence with the
Pecos River; and east along the Gulf Coast through the Florida Panhandle
and southern Georgia [5,8,11]. Black willow has been introduced in Utah
where it is now common along many streambottoms .
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
6 Upper Basin and Range
12 Colorado Plateau
14 Great Plains
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
Occurrence in North America
KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NE
NH NJ NY NC ND OH OK PA RI SC
TN TX UT VT VA WV WI MB NB ON
-The native range of black willow.
USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC (NPIN, 2007)
Canada: MB , NB , ON , QC (NPIN, 2007)
Native Distribution: S. New Brunswick and Maine south to NW. Florida, west to S. Texas, and north to SE. Minnesota; also from W. Texas west to N. California; local in N. Mexico; to 5000 (1524 m). (NPIN, 2007)
USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N) (NPIN, 2007)
Black willow is a small (sometimes shrublike) to large, short-lived,
deciduous tree [3,5,8,27,29]. It is fast growing and may reach maturity
within 30 years [8,17]. This tree usually obtains a height of 66 feet
(20 m) but can grow up to 138 feet (42 m) on some sites . The
massive trunks are usually leaning and are often divided. The bark is
thick and deeply divided into furrows separating thick, scaly ridges.
The crown is broad and open with stout branches . Twigs are slender
and easily detached . Leaf blades are variable in size, the larger
to 4.7 inches (12 cm) long. Black willow roots are shallow and
laterally extensive [5,39].
Flowers The sexes are on different plants. Male flowers are accompanied by 1 or 2 small glands. Female flowers have a small flat gland near the base of the ovary. Each flower is subtended by a scale. Flowers and leaves appear together. Catkins are long and slender, with yellow deciduous scales. There are 3-5 stamens. Stigmas are nearly sessile. (Peattie, 1930) Flowers are slender and upright. (Weeks et al, 2005) There are sharply pointed buds. Catkins are on a long, leafy stalk. (UW, 2009) Bright yellow-green twigs bear yellow-green catkins. Flowers are inconspicuous and arranged in elongate clusters. (NPIN, 2007)
Fruit The capsule is ovate-conic, glabrous (hairless), and light reddish brown. (Peattie, 1930) Fruit is a cluster of capsules that release cottony seeds. (Weeks et al, 2005)
Leaves are narrow and green on both sides. (Hultman, 1978) Young leaves are much unlike the mature ones. Stipules are conspicuous, somewhat persistent, and halfheart-shaped. Young leaves are more or less downy. Mature leaves are lanceolate, long, curved-tapering, acute at base, finely serrate, thin, and bright green. (Peattie, 1930) Leaves are green on both top and bottom, smooth on both sides, and have finely toothed margins. Leaves are simple, very narrow, and elongate. Tips often curve. Often a pair of leafy stipules are at the base of the short leaf stalk. (Weeks et al, 2005) Leaves are usually hanging, narrowly lance-like, with both sides green but paler below, and edges mostly finely toothed and not curled. (UW, 2009)
Stems/branches are black. Branches are long and drooping. (Hultman, 1978) Twigs are round and limber. Twigs are reddish brown to pale orange, at first tomentose (closely covered with downy hairs). (Peattie, 1930) Branching is alternate. Bud with a single greenish brown, reddish, or yellow scale. Buds are small, flat, and somewhat triangular. Twigs are extremely slender and brittle and have various colors similar to the buds. Leaf scars are tiny with 3 bundle scars. (Weeks et al, 2005) Bright yellow-green twigs bear yellow-green catkins. (NPIN, 2007)
Bark is black. (Hultman, 1978) Bark is dark, flat, and scaly. (Peattie, 1930) Bark is dark brownish with thick, wide shaggy plates. MAture bark is dark brown to nearly black with thick, rough, shaggy patches that nearly interlace. Fissures are often deep. (Weeks et al, 2005)
Plant is 3-40'. (Hultman, 1978) Typically 30-40' tall, but can be much larger. (Weeks et al, 2005) Up to 65' tall. (UW, 2009) In the lower Mississippi Valley it attains commercial timber size, reaching 100-140' (30-42 m) in height. (NPIN, 2007)
Flowers are nearly 3" long. (Weeks et al, 2005) Catkins are 1"-3" long. (UW, 2009)
Fruit is 2.5" long. (Weeks et al, 2005)
Stems Trunks are up to 20" in diameter. (UW, 2009) In the lower Mississippi Valley it attains commercial timber size, reaching up to 4" (1.2 m) in diameter. (NPIN, 2007)
Leaves are 3-6" long. (Hultman, 1978) Leaves are up to 5" long. (NPIN, 2007)
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Black willow is most common on river margins where it occupies the
lower, wetter, and often less sandy sites. It is also common in swamps,
sloughs, swales, gullies, and drainage ditches, growing anywhere light
and moisture conditions are favorable . It flourishes at or slightly
below water level and is not appreciably damaged by flooding and silting
[5,16]. On a flooded site in southern Illinois, black willow survived
32 or more days of complete inundation . Black willow, however, is
not drought tolerant. Whole stands may die out when water tables lower
and soil drys up .
Soils: Black willow grows on a variety of soils but develops best in
fine silt or clay in relatively stagnant water. It thrives in saturated
or poorly drained soil from which other hardwoods are excluded [6,24].
Black willow is commonly found in moderately acidic (lower pH limit is
4.5) to near neutral soils .
Climate: Black willow grows best in climates characterized by an
average annual rainfall of 51 inches (130 cm), with approximately 20
inches (51 cm) falling from April through August. The average maximum
temperature across its range is 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 deg C) in the
summer and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 deg C) in the winter .
Plant associates: Black willow is commonly associated with the
following species: eastern cottonwood, red maple (Acer rubrum), black
spruce (Picea mariana), river birch (Betula nigra), American sycamore
(Platanus occidentalis), boxelder (Acer negundo), red mulberry (Morus
rubra), swamp privet (Forestiera acuminata), buttonbush (Cephalanthus
occidentalis), water elm (Planera aquatica), and American elm (Ulmus
Key Plant Community Associations
Black willow occurs as a codominant in some early seral floodplain
communities [24,30]. It codominates with sandbar willow (Salix exigua)
on floodplains having the greatest water depths and the longest
hydroperiods of any of the shallow freshwater swamps of the southern
United States . Black willow also codominates with eastern
cottonwood (Populus deltoides) in the lower Mississippi Valley .
Published classifications listing black willow as a codominant in
community types (cts) are listed below:
Area Classification Authority
S. U.S. southern swamp & Penfound 1952
AR,MS: Lower cts Shelford 1954
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: swamp
61 River birch - sycamore
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
95 Black willow
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
235 Cottonwood - willow
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K091 Cypress savanna
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
Soils and Topography
The species is most common on river margins and batture land, where it occupies (and usually dominates) the lower, wetter, and often less sandy sites. It is also common in swamps, sloughs, and swales, and on the banks of bayous, gullies, and drainage ditches, growing anywhere light and moisture conditions are favorable. It flourishes at, or slightly below, water level and is not appreciably damaged by flooding and silting (4).
Although prevalent along most of the Mississippi River, it produces the largest and best formed trees on very low, moist sites in the batture of the lower river.
Flower-Visiting Insects of Black Willow in Illinois
(bees suck nectar or collect pollen, other insects suck nectar; information is available for staminate flowers only; a few observations are from Krombein et al. as indicated below, otherwise they are from Robertson; information about oligolegy in bees is from Krombein et al.)
On staminate flowers:
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina calcarata sn, Ceratina dupla dupla sn; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada cressonii sn, Nomada cuneatus sn fq, Nomada denticulata sn, Nomada illinoiensis sn fq, Nomada integerrima sn, Nomada obliterata sn fq, Nomada ovatus sn fq, Nomada sayi sn; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Osmia lignaria lignaria sn cp
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn cp, Augochlorella aurata sn, Augochlorella striata sn cp fq, Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn, Halictus confusus sn cp, Halictus ligatus sn cp, Halictus rubicunda sn cp, Lasioglossum cinctipes sn cp, Lasioglossum forbesii sn cp, Lasioglossum foxii sn cp fq, Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum macoupinensis sn, Lasioglossum pectoralis sn cp, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum pruinosus sn cp, Lasioglossum tegularis sn cp, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum zephyrus sn cp fq, Paralictus cephalotes sn; Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes inaequalis sn; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena andrenoides andrenoides sn cp fq olg (Rb, Kr), Andrena bisalicis sn cp olg, Andrena carlini sn, Andrena crataegi sn cp fq, Andrena cressonii sn cp fq, Andrena dunningi sn cp, Andrena erythrogaster sn cp fq olg (Rb, Kr), Andrena forbesii sn, Andrena heraclei sn cp, Andrena hippotes sn cp, Andrena illinoiensis sn cp fq olg, Andrena imitatrix imitatrix sn cp, Andrena macoupinensis sn cp, Andrena mandibularis sn cp, Andrena miserabilis bipunctata sn cp fq, Andrena nigrae sn cp, Andrena nuda sn cp, Andrena personata sn, Andrena rugosa sn cp, Andrena salictaria sn cp fq olg (Rb, Kr), Andrena sayi sn cp fq
Chrysididae: Chrysura pacifica; Braconidae: Agathis simillimus fq; Vespidae (Eumeninae): Ancistrocerus adiabatus
Bibionidae: Bibio albipennis albipennis, Bibio pallipes; Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua, Cheilosia capillata, Cheilosia punctulata, Chrysogaster antitheus, Eristalinus aeneus, Eristalis arbustorum, Eristalis dimidiatus, Eupeodes americanus, Helophilus fasciatus, Psilota buccata, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Syritta pipiens, Syrphus ribesii, Toxomerus marginatus; Empididae: Rhamphomyia limbata, Rhamphomyia priapulus fq, Rhamphomyia sordida; Bombyliidae: Bombylius major; Conopidae: Myopa vesiculosa fq, Myopa vicaria fq, Zodion fulvifrons; Tachinidae: Archytas analis, Gymnosoma fuliginosum, Linnaemya comta, Siphona geniculata; Calliphoridae: Cynomya cadaverina; Muscidae: Neomyia cornicina; Anthomyiidae: Delia platura fq; Scathophagidae: Scathophaga furcata
Nymphalidae: Vanessa virginiensis; Pieridae: Colias philodice
Cerambycidae: Molorchus bimaculatus; Chrysomelidae: Acalymma vittata; Lampyridae: Ellychnia corrusca
Flower gender unspecified:
Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hyaleus mesillae (Kr); Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena rubi (Kr)
Foodplant / parasite
Uncinula adunca var. adunca parasitises Salix nigra
Associated Forest Cover
Other noteworthy tree associates are red maple (Acer rubrum), boxelder (A. negundo), red mulberry (Morus rubra), and water locust (Gleditsia aquatica). In the areas where willow develops best, swamp-privet (Forestiera acuminata), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and water-elm (Planera aquatica) are the major noncommercial tree associates. Black willow often starts with sandbar willow (Salix exigua), which dies out before reaching more than small pulpwood size.
Diseases and Parasites
Insects are frequently the vectors for disease organisms. Willow blight, the scab and black canker caused by Pollaccia saliciperda, is transmitted by borers. Members of the genus Salix are the only known hosts. Phytophthora cactorum causes bleeding canker, lesions on the lower trunk that discharge a dark-colored, often slimy liquid. Confined to the phloem and cambium area, it can result in death if the canker girdles the trunk. Cytospora chrysosperma causes canker in poplar and willow. Under forest conditions, cytospora canker is of little consequence but when trees become weakened by drought, competition, or neglect, losses can be heavy. In nursery beds, losses of up to 75 percent of cuttings have been reported. Leaf rust caused by Melampsora spp. is common on seedlings throughout the range of black willow. Mistletoes (Phoradendron spp.) damage and deform but seldom kill willows.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker feeds on sap from holes they peck through the bark; this early injury to the tree degrades the lumber sawn later.
Hot fires kill entire stands. Slow, light fires can seriously wound willow, allowing woodrotting fungi to enter. Once dead, willow deteriorates very rapidly. Top and branch rot account for 86 percent of the cull in willow.
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
Following a spring fast-moving head fire in a palm (Sabal spp.) grove in
south Texas, all black willow trees up to 13 feet (4 m) tall were
scorched badly and had few green leaves. Three months after the fire
all aboveground portions of black willow trees had died, but almost all
sprouted from the base. Following a low to moderate-severity Oklahoma
grassland summer fire, black willow density decreased. Preburn density
was 169 stems per acre (417 stems/ha); a year following the burn density
was only 51 stems per acre (125 stems/ha) .
Immediate Effect of Fire
susceptible to fire damage and will typically decrease following fire
. High-severity fires can kill entire stands of black willow.
Low-severity fires can scorch the bark and seriously wound trees,
leaving them more susceptible to insects and disease [5,37]. Surface
fires will also destroy young seedlings and saplings [5,24,37].
survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire years 1 and 2
off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2
Black willow is a pioneer or early seral species commonly found along
the edges of rivers and streams, mud flats, and floodplains. This tree
is very shade intolerant and usually grows in dense, even-aged stands.
Black willow stands periodically stagnate and are eventually replaced by
more shade-tolerant trees such as American elm, sycamore (Platanus
spp.), ash (Fraxinus spp.), boxelder, and sweet gum (Liquidambar
Sexual reproduction: Black willows start producing seed when they are
about 10 years old [4,5]. Optimum seed-bearing age is from 25 to 75
years. The trees have good seed crops almost every year. producing an
average of 2.3 million seeds per pound (5 million/kg). Seeds ripen 45
to 60 days after catkins are pollinated by insects or wind. As the
seeds fall, the long silky hairs act as wings to carry the seeds long
distances. The seeds are also disseminated by water .
Seeds are not dormant. Viability is greatly reduced by only a few days
of dry conditions. Germination is epigeal, and germination capacity is
usually high. Very moist bare mineral soil is best for germination and
early development [5,14,28]. Once seedlings are established, full light
promotes vigorous growth. Seedlings grow rapidly in a favorable
environment, often exceeding 4 feet (1.2 m) in the first year. Low
ground cover competition and shade, however, greatly hampers growth
Vegetative reproduction: Root stocks of very young black willow trees
sprout prolifically. Propagation by cutting is the usual method of
artifical regeneration [5,39].
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
More info for the term: phanerophyte
Fire Management Considerations
prairies by inhibiting the invasion of black willow and other woody
Plant Response to Fire
that expose bare mineral soil may create a favorable seedbed for black
willow establishment. However, because seed viability is greatly
reduced by dry conditions , seedling establishment on burned sites
depends on the season of the burn, amount of moisture available, and
amount of exposed mineral soil.
. Its wind- and water-dispersed seeds are also important in
revegetating areas following fire. Fires are rare in the bottomland
areas where black willow typically occurs .
Reaction to Competition
Life History and Behavior
Black willow flowering begins in February in the southern portion of its
range and extends through late June at the northern limits. The catkins
usually appear at the time of or immediately preceding leaf emergence
[5,39]. Seeds ripen and fall in April to July .
Seedlings grow best when there is abundant moisture available throughout the growing season. In the Mississippi Valley, average heights are 9.8 in (32 ft) and average breast-high diameters are 6.6 cm (2.6 in) when the saplings are 5 years old (4).
Seed Production and Dissemination
Flowering and Fruiting
Growth and Yield
In well-stocked stands on the best alluvial soils, particularly along the Mississippi River, the tree prunes itself well and produces an acceptably straight trunk which is clear of limbs for an average of 12 in (40 ft). Open-grown willows and willows among small streams and in swamps are generally limby and of limited usefulness. Being a very weak tree, it is especially prone to breakage; almost all large trees have large broken limbs (4).
Unmanaged stands in the South have been estimated to yield 315 m³/ha (50 cords/acre) at age 25 and 416 m³ (66 cords) at age 35. The sawtimber volume (Scribner rule) in similar stands has been estimated at 396 m³/ha (28,300 fbm/acre) at 35 years and 560 m³/ha (40,000 fbm/acre) at 50 years. Good sites sustain about 30 m² of basal area per hectare (130 ft²/acre) (4).
Black willow is short lived; the greatest age recorded for a sound tree is 70 years and for an unsound tree, 85 years. The average black willow is mature in 55 years (4).
Thinning increases yields and reduces mortality when carried out in relatively young (18 to 24 yr) stands. Growth is best when basal area is reduced by about one-half. Spacing between trees after thinning should average 21 times the mean stem diameter-25.4-cm (10-in) trees spaced 5.3 in (17.5 ft) apart. If the factor is 18 or less, the spacing is probably too dense; if 24 or greater, the site is probably not fully utilized (2).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
One or more races of black willow are recognized as varieties by some authorities (3,9). Western black willow (Salix nigra var. vallicola Dudley) of Southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico was renamed as a species, Goodding willow (S. gooddingii Ball). Controversy over whether this is a separate species or a varietal species of black willow still goes on. Two other varieties have been named: S. nigra var. altissima Sarg. of the Texas gulf coast and S. nigra var. lindheimeri Schneid. of central Texas.
Although the genus Salix is widely distributed and many species occupy sympatric ranges, natural hybrids apparently are not common (3). Putative hybrids are difficult to verify since the identity of one parent is often uncertain. The following willows hybridize with Salix nigra: Salix alba (S. x hankensonii Dode), S. amygdaloides (S. x glatfelteri Schneid.), S. bonplandiana, S. caroliniana, S. lucida (S. x schneideri Boivan), and S. sericea.
Barcode data: Salix nigra
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Salix nigra
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
stands should be thinned as soon as economically feasible; thinning
should continue at 5-year intervals [5,28]. Spacing between trees after
thinning should average about 21 times the mean stem diameter of 10
inches (25.4 cm). This results in a 17.5 feet (5.3 m) spacing .
Insects and Disease: The forest tent caterpillar (malacosoma disstria),
the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), the cottonwood leaf beetle
(Chrysomila scripta), the willow sawfly (Nematus ventralis), and the
willow leaf beetle (Plagiodera versicolora) partially or occasionally
completely defoliate willow trees, reducing growth but seldom causing
death. The cottonwood borer (Plectrodera scalator) attacks black willow
and may kill by girdling the base. Top and branch rot account for 86
percent of the cull in willow. Leaf rust, fungus scab, and black canker
can cause leaf and shoot destruction of black willow seedlings [5,39].
Because of its weak wood and shallow roots, black willow is susceptible
to breakage and windthrow .
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
Ancient pharmacopoeia recognized the bark and leaves of willow as useful
in the treatment of rheumatism . Pioneering settlers boiled the bark
of black willow for its purgative and vermin-destroying powers . In
1829, the natural glucoside, salicin, which is closely related
chemically to aspirin, was isolated from willow . Black willow was
once used as a source of charcoal for gunpowder .
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Black willow was commonly used in soil stabilization projects in early
efforts at erosion control. Its flood tolerance and the ease with which
it establishes from cuttings continue to make it an excellent species
for reducing erosion of streambanks, bars, and islands [5,8,18,39].
Post-sized willow cuttings have been rooted for use in flood projects to
prevent gullies from forming .
Seeds lose viability rapidly if stored at room temperature.
Refrigerated storage of moistened seeds for no longer than 1 month is
recommended. Commercial seed is not usually available . Planted
seedlings or cuttings should be protected from livestock, beavers, small
rodents, and rabbits. Hardware cloth placed around individual plants
will protect them from rodents and rabbits. Livestock should be
excluded by fencing the entire area, and firebreaks should surround the
revegetated area. Additionally, the area around each tree should be
kept free of weeds . To reduce competition densities greater than
494 to 556 trees per acre (200-225 trees/ha) should be avoided .
Black willow cover values in Utah are rated as follows :
pronghorn - poor
elk - poor
moose - fair
small mammals - fair
small nongame birds - good
upland game birds - good
waterfowl - fair
Wood Products Value
Black willow is the largest and only commercially important willow in
North America. The wood is light, usually straight grained, and
moderately high in shock resistance. It stains and finishes well but is
relatively undurable . The wood was once used extensively for
artifical limbs because it is lightweight, does not splinter easily, and
holds its shape well [5,8]. It is still used for making boxes and
crates, furniture core stock, turned pieces, table tops, wooden
novelties, doors, cabinets, polo balls, and toys [5,8,15]. Black willow
is also used for pulp [5,8].
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
twigs and leaves; and rodents eat the bark and buds [8,35]. The
yellow-bellied sapsucker feeds on the sap [5,39]. Black willow is
somewhat tolerant of grazing and browsing . Black willow/cottonwood
stands are also commonly used as nesting habitat by some small nongame
bird species .
The wood was once used extensively for artificial limbs, because it is lightweight, doesn't splinter easily, and holds its shape well. It is still used for boxes and crates, furniture core stock, turned pieces, table tops, slack cooperage, wooden novelties, charcoal, and pulp.
Black willow was a favorite for soil stabilization projects in the early efforts at erosion control. The ease with which the species establishes itself from cuttings continues to make it an excellent tree for revetments.
Ancient pharmacopoeia recognized the bark and leaves of willow as useful in the treatment of rheumatism. In 1829, the natural glucoside salicin was isolated from willow. Today it is the basic ingredient of aspirin, although salicyclic acid is synthesized rather than extracted from its natural state.
This is not a preferred ornamental since the lifespan is moderate and the wood is susceptible to physical damage. (Weeks et al, 2005) Large trees are valuable in binding soil banks, thus preventing soil erosion and flood damage. Mats and poles made from Black Willow trunks and branches can provide further protection of riverbanks and levees. One of the lightest of all Eastern hardwoods, it is extremely weak in a structural sense. Yet it has a compliant strength. When nails are driven into it, black willow does not split. It is also a shade tree and honey plant. Ornamental uses include Fall conspicuous foliage, fast growing status, and shade trees. Medicinal uses include preparations of the bark of the roots that is intensely bitter and used to be an ingredient of spring tonics to purge the blood. Other uses include the numerous uses of the wood for millwork, furniture, doors, cabinetwork, boxes, barrels, toys, and pulpwood. During the American Revolution, the wood of black willow (and of other willows) was made into fine charcoal, which was then used to make gunpowder. The young stems are very flexible and are used in basket and furniture making. The twigs can be split in half lengthways, sun-dried and used as the foundation of coiled basketry. The plant is usually coppiced annually when grown for basket making. (NPIN, 2007)
Native American uses included the following. Various preparations of bark, roots, and leaves were used to check bowels, make the hair grow, as a poultice, for fever, for lost voice, for hoarseness, for "feebleness" due to thin blood, for stomach gas, for headaches, and on sprains and bruises. Bark and branches were used to construct various tools and containers. (UM, 2009)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Salix nigra.|
It is a medium-sized deciduous tree, the largest North American species of willow, growing to 10–30 m (33–98 ft) tall, exceptionally up to 45 m (148 ft), with a trunk 50–80 centimetres (20–31 in) diameter. The bark is dark brown to blackish, becoming fissured in older trees, and frequently forking near the base. The shoots are slender and variable in color from green to brown, yellow or purplish; they are (like the related European Salix fragilis) brittle at the base, snapping evenly at the branch junction if bent sharply. The foliage buds are 2–4 millimetres (0.079–0.157 in) long, with a single, pointed reddish-brown bud scale. The leaves are alternate, long, thin, 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) long and 0.5–2 centimetres (0.20–0.79 in) broad, usually somewhat falcate, dark, shiny green on both sides or with a lighter green underside, with a finely serrated margin, a short petiole and a pair of small stipules. It is dioecious, with small, greenish yellow to yellow flowers borne on catkins 2.5–7.5 centimetres (0.98–2.95 in) long in early spring at the same time as the new leaves appear. The fruit is a 5 millimetres (0.20 in) capsule which splits open when mature to release the numerous minute, down-covered seeds. The leaves turn a lemon yellow in the fall. It is typically found along streams and in swamps.
Salix gooddingii (Goodding's willow) is sometimes included in S. nigra as a variety, as S. nigra var. vallicola Dudley; when included, this extends the species' range to western North America. However, the two are usually treated as distinct species.
Another name occasionally used for black willow is "swamp willow", not to be confused with Salix myrtilloides (swamp willow).
According to the National Register of Big Trees, the largest black willow tree in the US is in Hennepin, Minnesota. Its height is 63 feet (19 m), circumference is 32 feet (9.8 m) and spread is 73 feet (22 m).
The Marlboro Tree, located in Marlboro Township, New Jersey is certified by the State of New Jersey as the largest known example of this tree in the state. It is about 152 years old and measures 76 feet (23 m) in height and 19.7 feet (6.0 m) in circumference. Five grown people must hold hands to fully encircle the tree.
Black willow roots are very bitter, and have been used as a substitute for quinine in the past. Ethnobotanical uses of black willow by various Native American tribes include basketry, and treatment of fever, headache, and coughs. The bark of the tree contains salicylic acid, a chemical compound similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).
- "Salix nigra". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Salix nigra
- Peattie, Donald Culross. Trees You Want to Know. Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, 1934
- Tree Species of the World's Boreal Forests: Salix nigra
- Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Salix nigra
- New Brunswick tree and shrub species of concern: Salix nigra
- USDA Plants Profile: Salix gooddingii
- Marlboro Tree
- Gunn, John C. Gunn's Newest Family Physician. Google Books. pp. 807–811. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
Names and Taxonomy
southwestern black willow
Gulf black willow
Marsh. [11,12,22,26,31]. Recognized varieties are S. nigra var. nigra
Marsh., S. nigra var. altissima Sarg., S. nigra var. falcata (Pursh.)
Torr., and S. nigra var. lindheimeri [20,22,26].
Salix nigra, S. gooddingii Ball, and S. amygdaloides Anderss. are
closely related taxa commonly referred to as the black willows .
The three species are not easily distinguished morphologically, and in
fact, some authorities consider S. gooddingii to be S. nigra var.
vallicola Dudley or S. n. var. venulosa (Anderss.) Bebb. [5,8,36]. S.
amygdaloides is sometimes considered to be S. nigra var. amygdaloides
Anderss. . For our purposes, however, these varieties will be
considered as separate species. S. nigra hybridizes with S.
amygdaloides (S. X glatfelteri Schneider); S. alba (S. X hankensonii
Dode); and S. lucida (S. X schneider Boivin) [5,20,38].
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