What it looks like

Black willow has long, narrow, pointed leaves with two small leaf-like “stipules” at the base of the leaf. The buds are shiny brown or yellowish-brown, and sharp-pointed. Trees may be single or multi-trunked but as the smooth dark brown bark matures it becomes deeply furrowed with scaly, flat-topped ridges.

Where it is found

Black willow is the largest native willow in Ontario and North America. It is common on moist sites throughout southern Ontario, as far west at the Bruce Peninsula and north to Pembroke. It may be confused with many non-native willow species.

Planting Tips

  • Size: Up to 12 m tall
  • Moisture: Prefers moist sites, tolerates seasonal flooding
  • Shade: Intolerant of shade, prefers full sun
  • Soil: Adaptable so long as there is even moisture

With its moist-loving habit and dense, fibrous root system, it is best to plant black willow far away from septic beds and sewer lines.

Like many willows species, this species grows fast and has a quick-spreading root system. It is useful for planting along waterways and for controlling erosion on steep banks.

Did you know?

Willow cuttings root very easily. Try it! Cut off a young branch and stick it into moist, warm soil in spring.

Image credits

  • Tree: Steven J. Baskauf
  • Leaf: Paul Wray
  • Bark: David Stephens
  • Seed: Steven J. Baskauf