Willow, known botanically as Salix, is a genus of deciduous shrubs and trees. Tree-size willows grow in moist, alluvial soil conditions and commonly at low elevations. There are more than 90 cultivars and naturalized forms of willow trees native to North America and numerous hybrids. One is used most heavily in commercial application and another species is an ornamental favorite in the landscape.
More commonly known as weeping willow this is the ornamental species prized for its elegant, weeping canopy with long dangling branches coated in slender green leaves. The leaves are serrated gently at the edges and are a mid-tone almost creamy green color and between 3 and 6 inches long and just a 1/2 inch in width. The weeping willow produces small, yellow-green catkins in the spring and brown seed pods in the summer. Weeping willow reaches 40 to 50 feet in height at maturity with a large rounded canopy. It is almost always found growing near a body of water where its large root system remains moist and can spread into very moist or even wet soils.
Commonly known as black willow, Salix nigra is a large tree grown widely for commercial as well as ornamental purposes. It is a fast-growing tree that reaches 65 feet at mature height and develops from one to four leaning trunks. The leaves resemble those of the weeping willow but are slightly darker green on the top surface and paler green underneath. Black willow trees thrive in river valleys, along streams or in coastal flood plains. Its wood is harvested for a range of products, its branches and bark for baskets, and it often is planted to prevent soil erosion because of thick and sprawling roots.
Peachleaf willow is a smaller, multi-trunk tree that reaches 40 feet in height at maturity under ideal conditions. The branches spread or slightly cascade down but not so prominently as the weeping willow. The bark is shiny and starts a pale, yellowish gray and darkens to brown over time. The leaves are a yellow-tinged green on the top and white to pale green underneath, serrated along the margins and up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. The yellow-green flowering catkins resemble the other willow tree species. Like other willow tree species, Peachleaf willow grows best in very moist, nutrient rich soil and is often naturalized in riparian environments and along stream banks and alluvial plains.