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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Black Willow

Black Willow

(Salix nigra Marsh)


Black willow is common along streams throughout North Carolina, except in the high mountains. Black willow will grow on almost any soil, but its shallow, wide-spreading roots need an abundant and continuous supply of water during the growing season.

Black willow is the largest of the native willow trees, averaging 30 to 5O feet in height and l to2 feet in diameter. Its leaves are long (3 to 6 inches) and narrow (1/2 to 3/4 inches wide), pointed and have finely toothed margins. The black willow's twigs are brittle at the Junction with the previous year's growth, and can be easily broken away. The fruit is a pod bearing hundreds of tiny seeds covered with long, silky down that enables them to be blown long distances.

The bark is deeply divided into broad, flat ridges that separate into thick, plate-like scales. On old trees, the bark becomes very shaggy. The bark varies in color from light brown, tinged with orange, to dark brown or nearly black.

Black willow trunks often are twisted ,curved or leaning. The wood is soft, light and not strong. Willow wood is used in boxes and crates, as core stock in furniture and for woodenware and novelties. Before the development of plastics, black willow also was used for artificial human limbs.

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