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.