Arroyo Willow

Common Names:
Arroyo Willow
Scientific name:
Salix lasiolepis
Salix lasiolepis var. bigelovii
Elevation range:
0 - 10,000 ft
Flowering Months:
February, March, April, May
Height | Length:
< 33 ft.
Life Cycle | Lifeform:
Shrub, Tree
Water-indicating plant, Dioecious, Reproduces vegetatively, Food for insects & larvae, Attracts butterflies, Nesting place for birds
Ancestral Usage:
medicinal, textile dye, basketry/tools, shelter
State Occurrences:
Desert region:
Chihuahuan, Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran

Arroyo Willows are a visual indicator of water where occurs in the desert. Although dioecious, these willows are mostly insect-pollinated rather than by wind. Stands of this plant make good nesting sites for many animals and small birds feeding on the insect population, including the Least Bell's Vireo and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher which are both listed as Federally Endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The bark and leaves of Arroyo Willow contain salicin, the primary ingredient in aspirin. Native Americans used boiled leaves and bark as a pain reliever and to reduce fever and swelling. The stems were made into arrow shafts and and various parts were used to make durable baskets and rope. Kumeyaay used the bark for padding cradle boards for infants. Arroyo Willow was also used as a wind break on shelters and woven for rafts in riparian areas.

Arroyo Willow 1

Arroyo Willow in the desert

Lesser Goldfinch perched in Salix lasiolepis at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve | March 2011