) is a genus of trees and shrubs of the willow family (Salicaceae). About 300 species occur worldwide, chiefly in the Northern Hemisphere; in Canada, some 54 native species (7 or 8 reaching tree size) are known, plus numerous forms of subspecific rank. Identification is complicated because plants are dioecious (ie, male and female flowering catkins occur on different plants) and the catkins frequently appear before the leaves. Leaves are simple, alternate and usually long and pointed; flowers are petalless. Distribution is transcontinental; some of the smallest woody plants, eg, dwarf willow (S. herbacea
), extend the genus range to the High Arctic. Introduced species include the large, popular weeping willow (S. babylonica
). Willows are widely grown for ornament, as shelterbelt plantings, and sometimes for waterside erosion control. The tough, flexible young branches are wickerwork material (osier). Like the ancient Greeks, Canadian Indians used the bitter inner bark, which contains salicylic acid, as a painkiller and to reduce fever. Although the wood is soft, it is used by artisans in the weaving and crafting of rustic furniture.
The dwarf willow (S. herbacea) extends the range of the willow to the High Arctic (Corel Professional Photos).
Male flowers (left) and female flowers of the weeping willow (artwork by Claire Tremblay).
Links to Other Sites
The Plant List
Search this online database for information about one million plant species from around the world. Also, click on "major plant groups" at the bottom of the page to browse descriptions of species of interest. Fungi and algae are excluded. From the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK and the Missouri Botanical Garden in the US.
Flora of North America
The FNA website features information on the names, taxonomic relationships, continent-wide distributions, and morphological characteristics of all plants native and naturalized found in North America north of Mexico.