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Black Willow

Common Name: Black Willow.

Scientific Name: Salix Nigra.

What to look for?  Moderately tall, “willowy” tree! The Black Willow may have one or several trunks. When multiple trunks are present, they are narrower and lean away from each other. These trees will have an irregular crown that is usually more wide than tall. The bark of the Black Willow is a dark brownish-black. Its long, narrow leaves are generally bright green.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? There are several Black Willows along the northern bank of the west Carillon Stonegate Pond.

How big are they? The Black Willow may grow up from twenty to sixty feet or more tall and with a breadth of nearly same size. The elliptical leaves are approximately five inches long and ½ of an inch across. The trunks of these trees are just over one (1) foot in diameter.

Where do they grow and thrive? Black Willow is a common tree that is native to Illinois and is found in every county. Across the U.S., Black Willow ranges from the Great Plains (except Dakotas) east and up into Canada. This species is usually found on moist or wet soils along the banks of streams, lakes, ponds, swamps, and sloughs.

When do they bloom? The blooming period occurs for about two (2) weeks during mid- to late spring as the leaves begin to develop. The florets are pollinated by bees and other insects. Female florets transform into seed capsules that split open to release the tiny hair-covered seeds. Black Willow is dioecious, producing either all male (staminate) or all female (pistillate) catkins on the same tree, but not both.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? After long winters, Black Willows are among the first sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees and bumblebees. Whitetail Deer browse on leaves of Black Willows in the summer and twigs in the winter. Beetles and other insects as larvae feed on the leaves, wood, or other parts of Black Willow. White-throated Sparrow and Mallards feed on willow buds and/or catkins during the spring. Some birds, including the Yellow Warbler and Warbling Vireo, may use willows as the location for their nests.

Interesting Facts About the Black Willow:

  • The Black Willow has widely spreading lateral roots which help to bind the soil and prevent erosion.

  • The ancient Greeks knew the therapeutic values of willows; tea made from willow bark was used for stiff joints and rheumatic pains.

  • By the 1840’s, chemists had isolated salicylic acid from willow and found it produced marked fever- reducing and pain-killing effects.

  • The estimated life span for Black Willow averages 65 years with a range of 40 to 100 years.

For more information on the Black Willow and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Morton Arboretum, Missouri Botanical Garden, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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