White Willow

(Salix alba)

Other Names:
The most common willows in North America are the Weeping willow Salix babylonica, White willow Salix alba, Black or Pussy willow Salix nigra, and Carolina willow Salix caroliniana.


Salicaceae – Willow family

Growth Type:
Deciduous woody tree or shrub. Willows vary greatly, but do have some relatively common characteristics.

Up to 150 ft tall. Many species are classified as shrubs and are much shorter

They tend to have elongated lance shaped leaves, although some species have more rounded leaves. The leaves tend to be pale to bright green with a lighter colored underside.

The bark of twigs and branches tend to be yellowish to brownish. The bark of the trunk and larger branches tends to be gray in color with that of older trees becoming deeply furrowed.

The roots of all species are extremely flexible and strong.

Flower Season:

Flower Appearance:
This species is dioecious (meaning that each individual is either male or female; males and females bear the same upright, yellowish, fuzzy catkins, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, appearing before or with the leaves.

A 1 to 2 inch long cluster of valve-like, light brown capsules, containing many fine, cottony seeds, ripen in late spring to early summer.

Miscellaneous characteristics:
There are over 400 species of willow in the world. Many species native to Europe and Asia have been transplanted as ornamentals throughout the world. As they escaped cultivation, they have become naturalized to these countries as well. Salix alba, or White Willow is one of these naturalized trees. It was originally native to Europe and Western and Central Asia.

Moist soils of swamps, dense woods, stream banks, or yards.

Parts Used:
Buds, catkins, Inner bark of trunk, root, or twigs.

Wild Food Uses:
While not great tasting, the buds are edible when they emerge. So too are the catkins. Both can be eaten raw, or as a cooked vegetable. These should be considered a survival food.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
Salix spp., contain high levels of methyl salicylate, the forerunner of modern aspirin. A pain-relieving tea can be brewed from the inner bark of the willow. The caveat I would offer about Salix species, is that the Salicylate levels can vary greatly from species to species, as well as from individual to individual within the same species. For constant levels of salicylates, I tend to stick with wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), or (Spiraea spp.).

Medicinal Actions:
Analgesic, Antiarthritic, Anti-Inflammatory, Febrifuge, Stomachic

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Weeping Willow Salix babylonica


Black Willow (Pussy Willow) - Salix nigra


White Willow - Salix alba