Landowner Fact Sheets

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black willow Salix nigra

Black willow occurs widely across the eastern U.S. and is commonly found on moist sites. Black willow wood is light and is used for a variety of wood products. Black willow's easy propagation, dense root system, and rapid growth are exploited for the stabilization of soils adjacent to water bodies.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Black willow is very shade intolerant. Clearcutting or other methods maximizing light availability are required for regeneration.

Black willow is most often found on alluvial soils growing next to streams, lakes, or ponds.


A small to medium sized tree that can develop a massive trunk with a spreading, irregular crown. Black willows are often affected by crown gall, and witches brooms and trunk sprouting are common.

Timber Value
Black willow is used for boxes, crates, doors, cabinets, furniture, turnery, slack cooperage, wooden novelites, polo balls, charcoal, and pulp.

Wildlife Value
The buds and catkins are eaten by birds. Deer eat the twigs and leaves. Rodents eat the bark and buds.
Attracts deer, yellow-bellied sapsucker, various other birds, rodents

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Black willow is a valuable soil conservation tree that is often planted to hold streambanks. For years extracts of willow bark were known to reduce fevers and alleivate pain. In 1829 the compound salicin was isolated from willow. This discovery led to the use salicylic acid as the basic ingredient in aspirin.

Latin Meaning
Salix: Latin name or Celtic "sal" (near) and "lis" (water) / nigra: black

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.