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Sandbar Willow
Salix exigua

About Sandbar Willow (Salix exigua) Salix exigua (Sandbar Willow) is a species in the Salicaceae (Willow) family native to most of North America except for the southeast and far north, occurring from Alaska east to New Brunswick, and south to northern Mexico. It is found in every county in California. It is a deciduous shrub reaching 4-7 meter (13-23 feet) in height, spreading by basal shoots to form dense clonal colonies. The leaves are narrow lance-shaped, 4-12 centimeter (1.6-4.7 inches) long and 2-10 millimeter (0.079-0.39 inches) broad, green, to grayish with silky white hairs at least when young; the margin is entire or with a few irregular, widely spaced small teeth. The flowers are produced in catkins in late spring, after the leaves appear. It is dioecious, with staminate and pistillate catkins on separate plants, the male catkins up to 10 centimeter (3.9 inches) long, the female catkins up to 8 centimeter (3.1 inches) long. The fruit is a cluster of capsules, each containing numerous minute seeds embedded in shiny white silk. Like most willows it is moisture-loving and not drought tolerant. It is one of the smaller members of the genus, making it suitable for small gardens and tight spaces such the edge of a pond or bioswale. However, its tendency to spread by basal shoots should be considered as it will eventually spread to occupy any wet soil that it can reach.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Tree, Shrub

Max. Height
10 - 23 ft (3 - 7 m)


Growth Rate
Moderate, Fast

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
Yellow, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Streamsides, marshes, pond margins, drainage ditches, and other wet areas


Elevation ?
-198' - 10807'

Annual Precip. ?
2.4" - 93.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 3.39"

Coldest Month ?
23.6° F - 61.6° F

Hottest Month ?
44.8° F - 88.8° F

Humidity ?
0.09 vpd - 42.81 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of various soils as long as there is abundant moisture available

Soil PH
5.5 - 8.0

Slow, Standing

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -10° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6*, 7*, 8*, 9*, 10*, 11*, 12*, 13*, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Use in constantly wet area with other wetland-riparian trees and shrubs such as Maples (Acer sp.), Alders (Alnus sp.), Dogwood (Cornus sp.), California Walnut (Juglans californica or hindsii), Sycamore (Platanus racemosa), Cottonwood (Populus sp.), Currant/Gooseberry (Ribes sp.), wild Rose (Rosa sp.), and wild grape (Vitis californica or girdiana). Also works well with various wetland grasses and grass-like plants such as Sedges (Carex sp.), Spikerush (Eleocharis sp.), Rushes (Juncus sp.), and Alkali Sacaton (Sporobolus airoides)

Wildlife Attracted
Plants in the genus Salix are host to a wide variety of pollinators including the Dreamy Duskywing, Viceroy, Lorquin's Admiral, Wiedemeyer's Admiral, Mourning Cloak, Western Tiger Swallowtail, Sylvan Hairstreak, various moths, and some gall-forming wasps. Some birds, such as the Least Bell's Vireo and Southwetern Willow Flycatcher, prefer to nest in large, dense willow thickets.

Landscaping Information
Water Requirement ?
Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
Keep moist
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment. Use fresh seeds (usually only viable a few days). Seeds should not be covered or pressed into a medium. Seedbed should be kept saturated for the first month. Easily propogated from cuttings.

Common uses
Bogs and Ponds, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Coyote Willow, Desert Willow, Narrowleaf Willow

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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