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Meet A Tree - Blog

Meet A Tree - Blog

The Black Willow - Salix nigra

Posted on 7 February, 2017 at 11:35

The Black Willow - Salix nigra (also called Swamp Willow or Gooding Willow) is a moderately large deciduous tree that can reach heights of 60-100 feet tall. It prefers wet soils, moist bottom lands, swamps, marshlands or waters edge locations and is not tolerant of shade. The Black Willow is often short trunked with branches beginning low to the ground, often leaning or crooked in form. Black Willow is a common tree in the Eastern United States, it is best known for it's ability to control erosion and ability to sprout new growth from broken branches lodged along river/stream banks.

Image Citation: Bill Cook, Michigan State University,


The bark of the Black Willow thickens with age and changes from thin and red - brown to thick and brown - black. In the winter the tree offers color from it's long, shiny red-brown to burnt orange twigs. The leaves are alternate, simple in shape and bright green in color on both the upper and lower surfaces. Leaves are 4-6 inches long and less then 1/2 inch wide, the leaf edges are finely toothed from base to tip.

Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.),

Recommended for hardiness zones 4-9, with a life span of 40-100 years.  The wood is light in density and moderately soft, it does not easily splinter.  Black Willow lumber is used for toys, crates and barn floors, but never as fine furniture.  Black willow is generally not recommended for use as a specimen in residential landscapes because of its susceptibility to breakage, potential insect and/or disease problems, need for soils that never dry out, litter problems, shallow spreading root system which may seek out water and/or sewer pipes, and mature size potential. In the right location, its shallow roots can act as a quality soil binder which provides excellent erosion control.  

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