Willow trees are widely recognizable because of the attractive weeping willow’s flowing branches and the fuzzy catkins of a pussy willow. Willows are shrub-like trees with thin and fibrous branches and roots. This structure of branches actually functions well to line the banks of waterways because willows like wet soil. Their shallow, widespread root systems filter runoff water, resulting in cleaner water.
Also functioning as natural windbreaks, they are resilient. They can re-root with ease after damage from a storm or any floating debris from the watery area. Because they thrive in wet environments, willow trees do well in Oregon and in the Pacific Northwest in general.
Willows attract wildlife too, which improves the overall aesthetic and health of an area. Whether a bird is searching for significant branch cover to nest in, or animals like moose, deer, and elk, are foraging to munch on a willow’s greenery and twigs, they provide for the needs of a variety of wildlife. Even bees depend on the willow for its pollen for their spring food. Willow trees also attract lots of insects that feed the surrounding fish in nearby streams and other bodies of water.
There are hundreds of types of willow trees around the world, but read on to find out a few willow trees that will grow well in Oregon. If you’re considering planting willow trees in your own landscaping, contacting professional arborists like those at Mr. Tree Services is a good place to start.
1. Clatsop Hooker Willow
This type of small willow is more like a shrub than a tree. It can reach between 10 and 26 feet tall. When fully matured, Clatsop hooker willows do well in coastal areas with lots of sun. The branches can have multiple stems on each. The twigs sprouting off the branches tend to be short, up to five inches long. The leaves are fuzzy, especially when they’re new growth, and oblong—almost shaped like eggs—and can turn leathery, which gives this tree an ornamental quality.
New growth is bright green, while older, more mature branches have bark that turns to dark grey. Rabbits and birds enjoy the young bark and the furry catskins. Most willows have male and female catkins, but one aspect that is unique about this type of willow is that it only produces female reproductive catkins in the spring, usually in March and April.
2. Multnomah Columbia River Willow
Once a threatened species, the Multnomah Columbia River willow has adapted in a limited geographical area near the shores of the Columbia River, where it’s moist, sandy, gravelly, or silty. It can also be found along Columbia River tributaries in the western areas of Oregon and Washington, which is how it received its name. It thrives along river or stream banks and sandbars, and it’s been used to help rehabilitate local wildlife habitats and stabilize soil.
The Multnomah Columbia River willow is similar in appearance to most other willows. Depending on where the willow shrub is planted, it can reach heights of between 10 to 20 feet. There are multiple compacted stems off of each branch, with fuzzy twigs.
What makes this tree unusual is how prolific it spreads out, known as suckering. Sprouting suckers is the tree’s response to any damage, growing new branches to heal itself. The Multnomah willow produces male and female blossoms on separate plants, but this variety produces only male catkins in the early summer months of May and June.
3. Nehalem Pacific Willow
This willow variety is widely spread along the Pacific coastline in North America. This species tolerates flooding better than other species and is often found along the shores of lakes and streams. Wherever there is moisture along the Pacific Ocean, you’re likely to discover a Nehalem Pacific willow tree. Like other willow trees, this tree will attract wildlife and bring ornamental beauty to your landscape.
Its height ranges widely, from 6 feet to 30 feet. It really depends on where it’s planted. While this type of willow looks like most other willows, it does have a unique white bloom, or a white fuzzy film on the bottom side of the leaves. Another unique aspect of this variety is its yellow-orange twigs.
4. Placer Erect Willow
This is a medium shrub that grows to around 8 to 18 feet tall. It’s known for growing well in California but also thrives along the entire Pacific coastal area and along the Cascade Mountain Range. In studies done by the United States Department of Agriculture, it was found that this species does better than others in competing with surrounding grassy weeds. This variety only produces male catkins and doesn’t spread its seeds in the same way as others.
Whether the soil is sandy and moist or dense, wet clay, it will grow well. It’s good at holding its own, and it can bring stability to uneven and washed-away shorelines. Placer erect willows actually thrive in poorly drained soil.
5. Plumas Sitka Willow
Ranging between medium to large shrubbery, the Plumas Sitka willow is similar in appearance to other willows and thrives in moist soils. While this variety of willow can be found in Oregon, its natural growth areas range from the North American Pacific coastline inland and eastward into British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana.
They can grow to heights between 10 and 23 feet, and their leaves are mainly smooth with some silvery hairs on the underside. Young twigs start red or brown, but they mature to grey like their other willow relatives. Also like others, they produce male and female catkins on separate plants. However, male catkins only develop during March and April.
Willow trees in Oregon thrive because of how moist the climate is in the Pacific Northwest. So if you’re in Oregon, willow trees might be a great addition to your yard. For advice on whether willow trees would grow well in your landscaping plan, contact a certified arborist at Mr. Tree Services for a free consultation.