Narrow Leaved Willow

Common Names:
Narrow Leaved Willow, Coyote Willow, Sandbar Willow
Scientific name:
Salix exigua
Subspecies | Variants:
Salix exigua var. hindsiana
Salix argophylla, Salix linearifolia, Salix longifolia var. argophylla
Elevation range:
-50 - 9,000 ft
Flowering Months:
February, March
Height | Length:
13 - 23 ft.
Life Cycle | Lifeform:
Water-indicating plant, Dioecious, Reproduces vegetatively
State Occurrences:
Desert region:
Chihuahuan, Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran

Sometimes called the Coyote Willow, this tree has the widest range of all tree willows. Multiple uses by Native Americans, including as medicine for pain, swelling and fever, colds and other ailments. Parts of the Narrow Leaved Willow were also used to create food baskets, arrow shafts for hunting, for ropes, bendable tools and building materials. 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. It is and important browse species for mule deer in the desert and the favored food of beavers in the Great Basin. As with all willows, Narrow Leaved willows stablize the soil along streambeds, creeks and rivers hence another common name, Sandbar Willow.

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Narrow Leaved Willow in the desert

Salix exigua grows to a height of 20 ft. Stems are reddish brown and smooth. Leaves are narrowly lanceolate, generally hairless or nearly so, with widely spaced teeth on the margins.  Barker Dam, Joshua Tree National Park | April 2014

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Narrow Leaved Willow in the desert

Salix exigua is a shrub or tree that is found in riparian areas or springs in the desert. Staminate (male) flowers are tiny and yellow forming catkins. This tree is dioecious, with male and female reproductive parts on separate plants.  Bighorn Mtn. Wilderness, CA | May 1, 2009

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Narrow Leaved Willow in the desert

Salix exigua often forms dense thickets that are good cover and nesting areas for wildlife, which also uses it for food. Native Americans also found many uses for this tree, including stems fashioned into bows for hunting. Coachella Valley Preserve, CA | March 2010

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Narrow Leaved Willow in the desert

Salix exigua at a spring in the middle distance of this photo. Bighorn Mtn. Wilderness, CA | May 1, 2009