Reaching heights of 20 – 60 feet, the Pacific Willow is a short-lived, fast-growing large shrub or small tree. It grows particularly well in wet, heavy soil, often even found growing in standing water, such as floodplains or riverbanks. Pacific Willows also attract wildlife by providing food and cover for many species, including deer, elk, mice, and cattle.
Pacific Willow’s thin, green and elliptical-shaped leaves are 4 – 15 cm long and 1 – 3 cm wide, with fine teeth along the edges. They are dark green and shiny on top, with tiny, soft hairs on the yellow-green bottom. This native’s flowers are 1 – 9 cm long yellow catkins (slim, cylindrical flower clusters, with inconspicuous or no petals), and its fruit is a glabrous capsule.
The Pacific Willow has long been used for a variety of medicinal uses, including treating sore throats, toothaches, colds, dysentery, stomachache, dandruff, and diarrhea. Willows can also produce salicin, a close relative to aspirin. Native Americans also used the stems for making bows and baskets, and the bark for making fabric and tea. For modern landscaping, Pacific Willow is ideal as a screen, a windbreak, and as previously mentioned, for attracting wildlife.
This Native Plant of the Month has been brought to you by the City of Beaverton’s Landscape and Urban Forestry Department along with Clean Water Services. Visit Clean Water Service’s Native Plant Finder webpage for interactive questions to help you find the right native plant to fit your needs!