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How to Identify Willow Trees in Minnesota

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017
White willows grow along streams.
willow-tree about river image by Maria Brzostowska from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Minnesota has four native willow species: weeping willow, white willow, laurel willow and curly or corkscrew willow. None of the willows grows in the coldest parts of the state (hardiness zone 2); corkscrew willow and laurel willow grow only in the southern half of Minnesota (hardiness zone 4). Learn to identify willows so you can purchase the right tree for your garden. All of Minnesota's native willows make good yard trees.

Weeping willow branches sag, growing toward the ground.
willow image by david purday from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Observe the shape of the willow tree. If the branches grow down toward the ground, making an umbrella, you've discovered the weeping willow. Weeping willows have pale green foliage and grow frequently on the banks of streams and ponds.

Notice whether the tree's branches grow straight or curl wildly. If the branches twist and turn in a corkscrew fashion, you are looking at the curly or corkscrew willow tree. Corkscrew willows can be challenging to identify when leaves obscure the branches, so get up close to identify the tree.

Note the shape of the leaves. Trees with dark green, ovoid leaves may be laurel willows (Salix pentandra). These trees reach only 30 to 40 feet in height and sometimes remain smaller, more shrublike. In the summer months, laurel willows have long, yellow-green fruit pods that resemble small chili peppers.

Notice whether the underside of the willow leaves have fine white or silver hair. This is the key to identifying the white willow (Salix alba), the last of the native willows. Some cultivars of white willow have yellow or red twigs. White willow also grows well on wet sites and can be found along rivers and streams.



  • Carry a native tree identification guidebook with you to provide detailed images of Minnesota's willow trees.

About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.