16 Different Types of Willow Trees And Shrubs

Willow trees are among the most recognizable and abundant species in the world. With over 40 different varieties, they are found in almost every continent, thriving in wet and marshy environments.

Willows are not only loved for their striking appearance, but also for their versatility, being used for a wide range of purposes, from ornamental planting to practical applications like erosion control, basketry, and even traditional medicine.

However, despite their popularity and widespread use, not all willow trees are created equal. Different species of willows display varying characteristics, from their growth habits, to the size and shape of their leaves, to the color of their bark.

Understanding the different types of willow trees can help you choose the best species for your needs.

List Of Willow Trees And Shrubs  

  • Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)
  • Black Willow (Salix nigra)
  • White Willow (Salix alba)
  • Bebb Willow (Salix bebbiana)
  • Common Osier (Salix viminalis)
  • Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana Tortuosa)
  • Narrowleaf Willow (Salix exigua)
  • Dappled Willow (Salix integra)
  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea)
  • Peach-Leaf Willow (Salix amygdaloides)
  • Yellow Willow (Salix lutea)
  • Scouler’s Willow (Salix scouleriana)
  • Crack Willow (Salix fragilis)
  • Bay Willow (Salix pentandra)
  • Almond-leaved Willow (Salix triandra)

Characteristics of Willow Trees And Shrubs

  • Willow trees and shrubs are either male or female.
  • They are known for shedding their leaves in the fall and re-growing them in the spring.
  • Willows are known for their fast growth rate.
  • Willow trees and shrubs are known for their flexible branches and twigs.
  • Their leaves are typically long and narrow in shape.
  • Commonly used in wetlands, along streams, and in water gardens.
  • They produce long and hanging catkins, which are clusters of flowers.
  • Willows are highly adaptable to different soils, including wet or damp soils.
  • They have a strong and extensive root system that helps absorb water and nutrients.

Description of Different Types of Willow

 Weeping Willow Trees

The Weeping Willow is native to China but widely cultivated in many countries around the world. It is characterized by long, pendulous branches that hang down from the trunk. The branches give the tree a somewhat drooping appearance.

Weeping willow trees grow to anywhere between 30 and 40 feet in height. The trees have wide, circular crowns, small trunks with loosely hanging branches. The branches hang in a clear downward direction, a factor that inform the “weeping” part of their name.

The tree has a fast-growing nature and can be used for shade or adding greenery in the landscape. The leaves of this Willow are long, narrow and bright green in color, often turning yellow in the fall before they are shed. The tree also produces small, yellow catkins in the spring which are followed by seed pods.

In north America and Europe, Weeping willows can be seen in parks, gardens and some along waterways. Despite their popularity, weeping willows have two major problems.

They have a tendency to spread rapidly and can become invasive, taking over natural areas and potentially displacing native plants. They are also heavy feeders and can out compete other plants in their immediate environment especially when it comes to water and nutrients.

Black Willow

Black Willow is native to North America, primarily in the Eastern and Central regions of the United States. It is a tree that can grow up to 70 feet tall.

The tree is characterized by its blackish-brown bark, which is rough and deeply furrowed, and its slender branches that droop towards the ground. The leaves of the black willow are long, narrow and dark green, and the tree also produces catkins (flowers) in the spring.

The black willow is a common tree found along streams, rivers and other bodies of water, and it is well-adapted to wet soils. In fact, it is often used for erosion control along river banks and in wetland restoration projects due to its deep root system and ability to absorb and retain water.

The tree has a number of medicinal uses. For example, the bark of the black willow contains salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin. Native American tribes used the bark to treat headaches, fevers and pain, and it is still used today as an herbal remedy for these ailments.

More importantly, the black willow wood too is strong, flexible and durable. The wood can be used furniture, basketry, and for creating products such as cricket bats and hockey sticks.

White Willow

White Willow is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is a fast-growing tree that can reach up to 30 meters in height.

The leaves of the White Willow are long, narrow, and typically have a glossy green color on top and a pale green color underneath. The tree produces catkins that are yellow-green in color and bloom in the early spring before the leaves emerge.

Other being preferred due to its fast grow rate and ornamental purposes, the White Willow is believed to have medicinal properties due to the fact that its bark has been used for centuries in many Native American communities to treat pain and fever. The bark of the White Willow contains salicylic acid, which is the main active ingredient in modern aspirin.

The White Willow can grow very well especially when planted along riverbanks and in wet areas because its highly tolerant of wet soils. In many places in North America, it commonly used in landscaping as a shade tree.

However, the bad side of growing this tree is that, it can be invasive because its seeds are easily dispersed rapidly by wind and water, a factor that can result to the displacement of native vegetation and negatively affect local ecosystems.

Bebb Willow

Bebb Willow is native to North America. It grows to a height of about 60 feet. This Willow tree has a reputation of being a fast grower with ability to thrive in various soil and moisture conditions.

The leaves of this Willow are somehow oval-shaped, with a glossy green upper surface and a dull underside. The tree produces catkins in early spring. The catkins are long and pendulous. They serve as food sources for birds and other wildlife.

In places like North America and Europe, this tree is used in wetland restoration projects, because it has ability to colonize and stabilize areas of bare soil and in the process reducing erosion. The wood of this willow is soft and flexible. It can be used in basketry, furniture making, and other crafts.

For sure, Bebb Willow is indeed attractive especially when it comes to its shape and foliage. Thus, you won’t miss it growing as an ornamental tree in many homesteads in North America.

Other than being tolerant of drought and flooding. This willow is a hardy species, with ability to withstand harsh winter conditions and insect damage.

Common Osier

Common Osier (Salix viminalis) is native to Europe and Asia. It is a shrub or small tree that grows to a height of about 30 feet. The tree is also relatively fast growing with attractive foliage and growth habit. It easily fits in small front yards or landscapes.

The leaves of Common Osier are long and narrow in shape. They are bright green in color and have a glossy appearance.

Just like other willows, the tree produces catkins in the spring. The wood of Common Osier is pliable and tough. It can be used for basketry, furniture making, construction of hurdles and fences.

This willow species is tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions and particularly grows just fine, along riverbanks and in damp meadows.

Corkscrew Willow

Corkscrew Willow is shrub or small tree species native to China and is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Willow.

The tree is characterized distinctive twisted and contorted branches, a feature that gives them, the common name “Corkscrew Willow”. The tree can grow up to 40 feet tall and is particularly graceful when grown in a front yard, park or walk way.  

Other than the twisting branches that grow in a spiral pattern and give the plant a distinctive, contorted appearance. The bark is smooth and gray in color, and the leaves are long, narrow and dark green, turning yellow in the fall. This willow too produces small, yellow-green flowers in the spring.

Narrowleaf Willow

Narrowleaf Willow is native to North America. It can grow up to 20 feet tall. The tree features narrow, lance-shaped leaves that are bright green in color and turn yellow in the fall. In some places such as Arizona or South California, you’ll easily spot a Narrow leaf willow in the landscape growing as shade trees.

The tree is a fast-growing species that is well adapted to disturbed soils (both wet and dry soils). The tree produces catkins in the spring, which are long, pendulous clusters of tiny, yellowish-green flowers. The catkins are followed by small, cone-shaped seed capsules that contain tiny seeds.

When in landscape, this tree serves as an important food source for wildlife, including deer, elk, and beaver, who feed on its leaves, twigs, and bark.

Dappled Willow

The Dappled Willow is a shrub or small tree, commonly grown for ornamental purposes particularly as a garden, bonsai or front yard tree. This willow tree is native to north-eastern China, Japan, Korea and the far south-eastern Russia.

Why is this dappled willow considered by many as beautiful? Well, this willow has variegated leaves, which are green with white, cream, and pink hues. The leaves can be described as lanced in shape. In the spring, the shrub produces delicate catkins (flowers) which add an additional ornamental touch to the tree.

The small tree is relatively fast-growing, and can reach a height of up to 15 feet in mature form. It is hardy in USDA zones 5-9 and actually adapts very well when grown in any soil type or environmental condition.

When grown in a front yard, home garden or as bonsai, dappled Willow will require regular watering, especially during dry spells. You will also need to prune it in late winter or early spring to maintain its shape and size, and to encourage new growth.

The good thing about this tree is that, it can also be propagated through stem cuttings, which can be taken from the current season’s growth.

Goat Willow

Goat Willow is native to Europe and Asia. It is commonly known as the “Pussy Willow” due to the soft, furry appearance of its catkins (flowers) in early spring.

The tree grows to a height of up to 15 meters. Its leaves are oval in shape with a glossy dark green appearance on the top and a paler green underneath. The branches are indeed flexible.

Goat willow is fast-growing. It can be used for habitat improvement and erosion control projects. In some places the tree is believed to be having medicinal properties.

Its wood and branches are soft and pliable and can be used to make baskets, furniture, and other crafts. When in landscape, the tree also acts as dependable source of food for many species of wildlife such as deer, beaver and numerous species of birds.

Peach-leaf willow

Peach-leaf willow is a small tree or large shrub species native to North America. It is primarily found in the western United States and Canada, where it is used in landscaping yards and stabilizing soils along streams and rivers. This tree can grow up to a height of 20 meters.

The tree has a rounded crown, and its leaves are long, slender and shiny with a dark green color on the upper surface and a pale green on the underside. In the spring, the tree produces catkins that are yellow-green in color.

Peach-leaf willow is a hardy and adaptable species, capable of growing in a range of soil types and conditions, including wetlands and riparian areas. It is also considered a pioneer species, meaning it is often one of the first to colonize disturbed areas.

Yellow willow

Yellow willow is native to Europe and western Asia, but it has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America. The tree is characterized by yellow twigs that essentially provide a beautiful contrast to the surrounding green foliage.

Yellow willow can grow up to 20 meters tall, with a narrow, oval crown and branches that droop at the tips. The leaves are long and narrow with a bright green color on top and a pale underside. The tree produces small, yellow catkins that bloom in early spring before the leaves emerge.

Yellow willow is a fast-growing species and you can grow it as a hedge around your home. In north America, you’ll often spot this willow in parks and home gardens as a specimen tree. This species is well adapted to a wide range of soil conditions and can tolerate cold temperatures such as those of Alaska or Ontario.

Scouler’s Willow

Scouler’s Willow also referred to as Scouler’s Willow, Pacific Willow, or Alaska Willow, is native to the Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to California. It is named after John Scouler, a Scottish naturalist who collected plant specimens in the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century.

It grows up to 20 meters tall, with long, narrow leaves that are of pale green color and slightly glossy texture. The bark of this tree is a source of food for wildlife such as the Snowshoe Hare and muskrat.

In North America, Scouler’s Willow is particularly common in stream banks, swamps and wet meadows. The bark of the tree is a source of food for certain animals, such as the Snowshoe Hare.

The flexible stems of the tree have traditionally been used by Native American tribes for making baskets, mats and other woven items. The wood of the tree is also good for fuel, fencing and other forms of outdoor construction projects.

Crack willow

Crack willow is native to Europe and Asia. This tree can grow up to 30 meters tall, with a trunk that is cylindrical and straight. It is also known by other names such as “Brittle Willow” and “Snap Willow” due to the tendency of its branches to break easily.

The leaves of crack willows are narrow and of bright green in color. They grow in a spiral pattern along the branches, and they are covered in a dense layer of fine hairs that give the tree a silvery-gray appearance.

The flowers of this willow are small and inconspicuous and are usually followed by a green or yellowish-brown fruit capsules that contain the seeds.

The branches of this willow are brittle and often prone to breaking off and falling during storms or high winds. More importantly, this tree is easy to propagate as small branches can easily take root and grow into new trees.

Bay Willow

Bay Willow is native to northern and central Europe and northern Asia. It is fast growing and can grow up to 20 meters tall with dark green leaves. Just like other willows, the leaves are lance-shaped, and have a glossy texture. The tree often produces small yellowish catkins (flowers) in early spring.

When grown in the landscape the tree can act as a specimen, hedge or windbreak. It can also act as a habitat for many different types of creatures. Its leaves are a food source for caterpillars, while the tree’s branches and trunk provide shelter and nesting sites for birds, bats and other animals.

The wood of the tree is lightweight and durable and can have a number of traditional uses such as making baskets, furniture and production of cricket bats. It can also be used in making charcoal and in paper production.

Almond-leaved Willow

The Almond-leaved Willow is native to Europe and western Asia. It is also commonly known as the “Almond Willow” due to the shape and appearance of its leaves. The leaves are shiny green in color and are shaped like almonds. Its yellow-green catkins that appear in spring.

The Almond-leaved Willow is a medium-sized tree that can reach heights of up to 50 feet tall. It is a hardy and adaptable tree with ability to tolerate drought, wet or marshy soils and cold temperatures.

The tree has several cultural and ecological significance. In some parts of Europe, it is used for erosion control and as a source of wood for fuel and construction. In other regions, it is used as an ornamental tree due to its attractive appearance and fast growth.

Leave a Comment