Salix spp. – Willow

WillowSalix spp.

Salix = Sa-liks, from the classical Latin name for willows;

Identification: There are many species of Salix in the area, making it a complex and diverse genus. Willows grow as shrubs and occasionally small trees. Their flowers and fruits are borne as catkins. The leaves are usually narrow.

Distribution & Habitat: Willows are typically found in wet places such as river banks, marshes and swampy areas.

Preparation & Uses: The young shoots and leaves of willow can be eaten raw. The inner bark of willow can also be eaten raw, but is better if it is dried and then ground into flour.

The inner bark of willow contains a chemical called salicin or methyl salicylate which is similar to aspirin and useful as a substitute. The leaves have an astringent quality that is effective when placed on cuts and wounds. The tea of the bark excretes in the urine as salicylic acid and can therefore be used for irritability of the urinary tract.

The Blackfoot Indians used willow in many ways. An infusion of the root was used for venereal disease, bruises, throat constriction, internal bleeding, bloodshot eyes and mixed with kidney fat for head sores. The root was chewed and spat into horse s eyes if they were bloodshot or cloudy. The roots were also dried, crushed, then soaked in water and grease as a dandruff tonic.

Willow branches are very flexible, which makes them useful for many household or camp needs, such as handles, woven items and back rests. The bark can be woven into a cord. Nice little whistles can be made by loosening the bark, carving holes and blowing through it.