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Black Willow, A Common Tree in North America

Salix nigra, A Top 100 Common Tree in North America


Black willow is named for its dark gray-brown bark. The tree is the largest and most important New World willow and is one of the first trees to bud in the spring. The numerous uses of the wood of this and other willows is furniture doors, millwork, barrels and boxes.

1. The Silviculture of Black Willow

Black willow (Salix nigra) is the largest and the only commercially important willow of about 90 species native to North America. It is more distinctly a tree throughout its range than any other native willow; 27 species attain tree size in only part of their range. This short-lived, fast-growing tree reaches its maximum size and development in the lower Mississippi River Valley and bottom lands of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Stringent requirements of seed germination and seedling establishment limit black willow to wet soils near water courses, especially floodplains, where it often grows in pure stands.

2. The Images of Black Willow

Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of black willow. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Salicales > Salicaceae > Salix nigra Marsh. Black willow is also sometimes called swamp willow, Goodding willow, southwestern black willow, Dudley willow, and sauz (Spanish).

3. The Range of Black Willow

The Range of Black Willow
Black willow is found throughout the Eastern United States and adjacent parts of Canada and Mexico. The range extends from southern New Brunswick and central Maine west in Quebec, southern Ontario, and central Michigan to southeastern Minnesota; south and west to the Rio Grande just below its confluence with the Pecos River; and east along the gulf coast, through the Florida panhandle and southern Georgia. Some authorities consider Salix gooddingii as a variety of S. nigra, which extends the range to the Western United States.

5. Fire Effects on Black Willow

Although black willow does exhibit some fire adaptations, it is very susceptible to fire damage and will typically decrease following fire. High-severity fires can kill entire stands of black willow. Low-severity fires can scorch the bark and seriously wound trees, leaving them more susceptible to insects and disease. Surface fires will also destroy young seedlings and saplings.

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