Sitka Willow (Sitchensis)

The Sitka Willow (Sitchensis) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . Leaves are not retained year to year. The Sitka Willow (Sitchensis) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Sitka Willow (Sitchensis) will reach up to 23 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 23 feet.

The Sitka Willow (Sitchensis) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -18°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The inner bark was dried, grounded into a powder and then added to cereal for use in making bread. Willow branches and bark was used for making ropes for nets, tying, and bending. The Straits Salish used the bark to make a gray dye for mountain goat wool (Pojar & MacKinnon 1994). The Haida used the spring catkins or pussy willows of this species as decoration (Ibid.). The Indians used the wood and twigs in drying fish, stretching skins, and basket making (Viereck & Little 1972).

Medicinal: Willows are the source of the natural precursor to aspirin, salicylic acid, found in leaves and bark (Pojar & MacKinnon 1994). The bark can be pounded and applied to wounds as a healing agent (Moerman 1998). An infusion of the stems has been used in the treatment of stomach complaints (Ibid.).

Conservation: Sitka willow is used in forested riparian buffers to help reduce stream bank erosion, protect aquatic environments, enhance wildlife, and increase biodiversity.

General Characteristics

General: Willow Family (Salicaceae). Salix sitchensis is a large shrub or small tree, six to twenty-five feet high. The leaves are alternate, oblonceolate or narrowly ovate, two to five inches long, and usually sharp-pointed. The flowers appear before or with the leaves, on short leafy shoots, males are five centimeters long, and the females are eight centimeters long (Pojar & MacKinnon 1994). The bark is smooth, slightly furrowed, and scaly.

Required Growing Conditions

Salix sitchensis is native to stream banks from southern Alaska to southwestern Oregon (Viereck & Little 1972). For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Sitka willow is found on or near lake shores, wetland margins, forest edges, wet openings, and clearings at low to middle elevations. This species prefers damp, heavy soil but will succeed in most soils. It grows best in sunny locations but will tolerate some shade.

General Upkeep and Control

SCACO2" Hydrology is the most important factor in determining wetland type, revegetation, success, and wetland function and value. Changes in water levels influence species composition, structure, and distribution of plant communities. Water management is absolutely critical during plant establishment, and remains crucial through the life of the wetland for proper community management.

Traditional Resource Management: The plant must grow in coarse-textured soil free of gravel, clay and silt for the roots to be of the quality necessary for basket weaving. Plants are tended by gathering and reducing the density between plants for longer rhizome production. Sustainable harvesting of plants occurs through limiting harvest in any given area. Fire is used to manage tule wetlands to remove old stems and restore open water to the wetland. This stimulates growth of new shoots from rhizomes and provides a bare soil substrate for seed germination.

Many Native Americans feel the use of herbicides is inappropriate in traditional gathering sites. Bulrush is densely rhizomatous with abundant seed production. In most cases, it will out-compete other species within the wetland area of the site, eliminating the need for manual or chemical control of invasive species. Heavy grazing will eliminate Schoenoplectus species as well as other native species. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 23
Vegetative Spread Slow
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -18
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 35–35 inches/yr
Planting Density 1100–2700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 165 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA