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Red Willow
Salix laevigata
About Red Willow (Salix laevigata) Nurseries Show All Photos Red Willow is one of the most common riparian trees in California, usually growing in or very near creeks, at elevations from 0-5000 feet. It is an extremely fast growing tree - growing up to about 50 feet in height, and often more than 50 feet in width within 10 years if it gets plenty of water. The bark is ridged and grayish, though it sometimes turns reddish with age. Its form is variable, but it will often grow from multiple winding trunks, some more or less straight up, and some growing out far away from the base, even horizontally, and laying along the creek bottom before growing upwards again. Twigs are reddish and flexible when young. Leaves are 3-4 inches long, lanceolate and shiny green on top, dull whitish green underneath. This tree is mostly deciduous during the winter, but can start growing back leaves early during warm snaps in the winter. Yellow flowers grow in drooping catkins. In female red willows, the catkins turn into tufts of cottony seeds, which are windborn, often in large quantities, for 2-3 weeks in the spring.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
30 - 50 ft (9.1 - 15.2 m)

Max. Width
30 - 50 ft (9.1 - 15.2 m)

Rounded, Spreading


Growth Rate

Winter Semi-Deciduous, Winter Deciduous

Leaves are 3-4 inches long, lanceolate and shiny green on top, dull whitish green underneath

Flower Color
Cream, Yellow, Red

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Creeks or damp areas

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
-11' - 8418'

Annual Precip. ?
3.2" - 70.1"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 3.61"

Coldest Month ?
29.2° F - 59.1° F

Hottest Month ?
53.6° F - 87.7° F

Humidity ?
0.18 vpd - 41.19 vpd

Soil Description
Heavy moist soils

Soil PH
6 - 8

Fast, Medium, Slow, Standing

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -20 - 10° F

Companion Plants
Western Sycamore, Arroyo Willow, Black Willow, Sandbar WIllow, Coast Live Oak, Yerba Mansa

Wildlife Attracted
Bees, butterflies

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

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

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
1/week, Keep moist
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Tolerates heavy pruning. Can often be cut back to the ground and will quickly resprout

Pest Control
Ants and aphids are attracted to Red Willows, though they seldom really hurt the health of this tough plant.

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
Polished 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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