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 are furniture doors, millwork, barrels, and boxes.

The Silviculture of Black Willow

yellow bird in a willow tree
(Kitchin and Hurst/Getty Images)

Black willow (Salix nigra) is the largest and 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 bottomlands of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Stringent requirements of seed germination and seedling establishment limit black willow to wet soils near watercourses, especially floodplains, where it often grows in pure stands.

The Images of Black Willow

black willow tree flowers
(SB Johnny/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0) provides several images of parts of black willow. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Salicales > Salicaceae > Salix nigra. Black willow is also sometimes called swamp willow, Goodding willow, southwestern black willow, Dudley willow, and sauz (Spanish).

The Range of Black Willow

Distribution map for the black willow tree

(Elbert L. Little, Jr./U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Fire Effects on Black Willow

forest fire
(Tatiana Bulyonkova/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Although black willow does exhibit some fire adaptations, it is very susceptible to fire damage and will typically decrease following a 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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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Black Willow, a Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nix, Steve. (2020, August 27). Black Willow, a Common Tree in North America. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "Black Willow, a Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).