Conservation // 5 min Read

Black Willow

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Jun 15, 2020

Whether they grow as shrubs or trees, black willows are typical willows, with elongated leaves and slender trunks. However, the distinguishing feature of this tree is its dark, furrowed bark - known for its medicinal benefits.

Native to South Carolina and found at Palmetto Bluff, Jay Walea, director of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, tells us more about black willow.

Native (but Invasive)
Although native, this plant can be invasive, growing in thickets along our freshwater riverine systems and lagoons. This species has an amazing ability to take over the edges of rivers and lagoons for several reasons. The seed from the willow is dispersed in the air but will also fall in the water - taken downstream by the current before being deposited along the bank. Twigs and limbs of the black willow, should they fall, can take root and become a new tree. And if the black willow has been cut down, new growth can sprout from its stump. All of these dispersal methods give this tree species a great survival mechanism.

Natural Remedy
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, black willow has been used for its medicinal properties. A tea made from the bark of the black willow has been used for centuries to combat stiff joints and rheumatic pains. The new growth on the ends of each branch, along with the bark, has salicylic acid which is a natural form of aspirin. Chewing on the new growth or making a tea from the new growth or bark has been used as a fever reducer and a pain reliever.

Erosion Prevention
Black willow has other benefits rather than its beauty and its medicinal value. This species only likes moist soils and has been used for soil stabilizers to keep banks from eroding. Growing along the water’s edge, this tree has limbs that drape over the water (and often into the water) providing escape cover for small fish to get away from larger predatory fish found in these systems.

When controlled, black willow is a great tree with many benefits and adds beauty to the South Carolina Lowcountry.