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Katie Eberhart - Writing & Observations


Willow (Salix)


There are at least 30 native species of willow in Alaska, but they are difficult to positively identify in winter. These range in size from small creeping shrubs to small trees. Following are some general guidelines and suggestions for distinguishing willow from the other common deciduous forest trees in the Matanuska Valley.


Willow twigsTwigs are usually slender and wiry and winter buds are covered by a single bud scale.


Willow barkBark is fairly smooth and gray.On younger trees bark may be a dark red or light tan.

Flowers are silvery furry catkins, Willow Catkinbecoming yellowish or greenish as they mature and the pollen disperses. The male and female flowers are on separate trees or shrubs and bloom in early spring, before the leaves emerge. Strong sunny days in February will cause willows to bloom.

Fruits develop in spiked seed pods by early summer.

Seeds have tufts of "cotton" attached and are dispersed by mid-summer.

Ecology: Willows often grow beneath the larger spruce and birch trees in the mixed northern forests and form thickets along stream beds or sand bars. Willow provides an important summer and winter food for moose and willow ptarmigan.

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This page last updated June 4, 2006



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