Prairie Willow OR''

Prairie Willow OR''

Prairie Willow

Prairie Willow, also referred to by its scientific name Salix humilis, is a vibrant green shrub that adds a touch of emerald to any garden. Salix humilis is a hardy plant, it prefers to grow in partial to full sun environments. It favors drier soils and tolerates drought more than any other species in the Salix genus. It is common to see this plant thriving in the gravely/sandier soils. It is a relatively short growing shrub, usually growing 4 to 5 feet. However, given the proper environments, Prairie Willow can grow wider and taller. New Prairie Willow plants can be started by simply cutting the stem (a practice commonly referred to as cloning) and planting the cut-off portion in soil. Roots will begin to grow shortly thereafter.


There are over 20 species of Willows in Minnesota; Prairie Willow is the only native willow shrub that is commonly found in drier habitats such as prairies, savannas, bluffs, Jack pine stands and forest edges, often in sandy or rocky soil, though it is also sometimes found along shores or the edges of wetter habitats. There are 2 varieties of Salix humilis, both of which are found in Minnesota, though (to me) they do not look much alike. According to Welby Smith's “Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota”, their ranges overlap but the smaller var. tristis is largely absent from the north-central and northeastern counties. Most herbarium records do not specify a var (see the MN distribution map) but it is assumed most of those are the more common var. humilis.The smaller var. tristis vaguely resembles Sage-leaf Willow (Salix candida), which is also short statured with woolly-hairy leaves, but the leaves are more linear and up to 4 inches long, and it lives in wet habitats. The larger var. humilis is more similar to Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), which has mostly hairless leaves with less pronounced veins and larger flowering and fruiting catkins, and also lives in wetter habitats and can take the form of a small tree, which Prairie Willow does not.

Description: This shrub is 2-8' tall, often branching near the base and toward the tips of older stems. Woody stems are terete and variably colored – usually some shade of yellowish tan, brown, or gray. Young woody stems are often short-pubescent, but they become glabrous with age. New shoots are light green and short-pubescent. Alternate leaves occur along young stems and shoots. The leaf blades are 1�-4" long and �-�" across; they are narrowly lanceolate, oblanceolate, or oblong-elliptic in shape and smooth to slightly crenate along their margins. The margins are often revolute (curved downward) as well. The upper surface of the leaf blades is medium green or grayish green and glabrous to sparsely short-pubescent, while the lower surface (for this variety of Prairie Willow) is short-pubescent and sometimes whitened. The petioles are �-�" in length and short-pubescent. At the base of the petioles, lanceolate stipules are sometimes found. (Source: www.illinoiswildflowers.info)



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