Different Types of Willow Trees

Written by john lindell
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Different Types of Willow Trees
Willow leaves are typically longer than they are wide. (Wipping willow branches image by Katya Mikhlin from Fotolia.com)

Of the approximately 100 different species from the willow family that occur in North America, about 40 attain a large enough size to qualify as trees. These willow trees have similar characteristics, such as short-stemmed leaves that are usually much longer than broader and grow alternately on the twigs. The willow species serve multiple purposes, with some making good choices as ornamentals and others used to control erosion.

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Scouler's Willow

Scouler's willow is native to the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest and much of western Canada into Alaska. Scouler's willow can grow up to 40 feet tall. Its young branches, which often grow at right angles to the main limbs, are a dark yellow-brown shade and have a velvety texture before turning grey with age. The leaves grow to 4 inches long and the flowers are much like those of the more familiar pussy willow, having a furry appearance, according to "Trees of North America." You can identify Scouler's willow by stripping some of the bark from young branches, which will have an odour resembling that of a skunk. Scouler's willow occurs in lowlands and wetlands, on mid-level mountain slopes and at the edges of forests. The wood often is used to make prosthetic limbs. The twigs, buds, flowers and foliage are staples in the diets of animals, like elk, moose, deer and bighorn sheep.

Peachleaf Willow

The lance-shaped curving leaves of the peachleaf willow resemble those of the fruit trees that give the species its name. Peachleaf willow will develop one or more straight trunks and grow as high as 40 to 60 feet. The peachleaf willow is common from the northern portion of the Great Plains south to New Mexico, inhabiting marshes, swamps, lowland forests, river and stream banks, and gullies along the road. Peachleaf willow has a dark furrowed bark and twigs that are a shiny brown or orange shade. The tree is a favourite food of rabbits and beavers, among other creatures. Peachleaf willow is an important species in floodplains, where it helps to absorb floodwaters, and prevent water from eroding banks and soil. Like most willows, peachleaf willow is easy to grow, with viable specimens developing from branches stuck into damp ground.

Pacific Willow

The Pacific willow is one of the taller American willows, reaching heights of 45 to 50 feet. Pacific willow is a native plant along the rivers and streams ranging from British Columbia and southern Alaska to southern states, such as New Mexico and California. Pacific willow has the long and thin leaves that characterise willows. The flowers, known as catkins, lack hairs and are a brown-red combination of colours. Also called red willow, golden willow and yellow willow, this species provides food for creatures as small as mice and as large as moose. Pacific willow has new twigs that are yellow during their first year of growth.

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