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FutureStarrSalix Humilis or
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 leaves of prairie willow have white and reddish hairs on the top surface (giving them a gray-green appearance) and white hairs on the undersurface. These hairs may help protect leaves from desiccation and solar heat, making this species more tolerant of drought than other willows. Short-tongued bees and flies visit the silky flowers for nectar. Caterpillars of many moths and butterflies, including the Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops) eat the foliage. Many willows (Salix species) have bitter-tasting bark that contains derivatives of salicylic acid, the main compound in aspirin. Fields, roadsides, forest borders, sand plains, woodlands, often in well-drained soils. Salix humilis can be confused with S. cinerea ssp. oleifolia, especially when the ridges on decorticated branches are longer than usual (as does occasionally occur on New England material).
The two taxa can be separated on the basis of plant height, leaf blade outline, stipules, anther color, and ovary pubescence. Salix humilis is 0.3–3 m tall, with leaf blades 2.3–7.5 times as long as wide, lacking or with rudimentary stipules on the first leaves (i.e., those that expand from the winter bud), has purple anthers that turn yellow in age, and has wavy or crimped hairs on the ovary. Salix cinerea ssp. oleifolia is 2–12 m tall, with leaf blades 1.8–4.3 times as long as wide, with foliaceous stipules on the first leaves, has yellow anthers, and ± straight hairs on the ovary.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. (Source: www.prairiemoon.com)