Salix nigra, or the black willow is a medium sized deciduous tree that is native to eastern North America. Though the black willow is only a medium sized tree when compared to the oak, the sequoia tree, or the redwood, it is the largest North American species of willow and can grow to be between 30 to 90 feet tall with a trunk of up to around 3 feet in diameter. The black willow gets its name from its bark which is dark brown to black and heavily fissured in older trees.
Like all willows, the black willow was prized among the first nation’s peoples of North America due to its bark being used as cordage. Both the bark and slender young branches were used in basket making, and the bark could also be boiled and made into a bitter tea which contains the same active ingredient as aspirin.
The black willow also has the easily recognizable shape as other willows and also like other willows is usually found growing along stream banks, in swamps, and in wet woodlands. The black willow has been overlooked or thought of as a nuisance since its usefulness became negated by modern medicine and basketry, but it is currently regaining popularity as a native species to be used in landscaping and gardening. When the landscaping or gardening project calls for a stream or lake to be edged with trees to prevent erosion and add beauty there is no better choice than the black willow.