Willow (Salix spp.)

Willow photograph; ???? MN DNR, Welby Smith


A large family of trees and shrubs, some varieties not commonly distinguished from each other; becomes large when growing along streams and other moist places, scraggly, dwarfed shrubs when growing on drier, less favorable sites. The black and peachleaf willows are two of the willows native to Minnesota that are small- to medium-sized trees. On favorable sites, some trees are often 35' to 50' high with a diameter of 6" to 24". The peachleaf willow can attain a height of 60' to 70' and 24" in diameter, has somewhat greenish-yellow leaves, and somewhat drooping twigs. The black willow may be 30' to 40' high and again it may be only a shrub; it usually has a short trunk and stout, spreading branches, forming a broad, rather irregular open crown.


Dark brown to gray on large trees; thick, rough, furrowed, and flaky.


Simple, alternate on stem. Black willows have very narrow leaves with finely toothed margins and are shiny green on both sides. Peachleaf willows have long, pointed, lance-shaped leaves with finely toothed margins that are whitish underneath and borne on long, slender, somewhat twisted stems.

Fruit (seed)

Capsules containing numerous seeds grouped in dense, elongated clusters known as "catkins." Willows may be propagated with "cuttings" more easily than with seeds. Seeds are minute, maturing in late spring or early summer.


Many varieties occur over a wide range in Minnesota and the United States from moist conditions to dry upland prairies. Many European and ornamental varieties have been introduced.