Coyote willow (Salix exigua) blooming in Idlewild Park. May 2016. Photo: K. Fitzgerald.
- Leaves: long (2 to 5.5”) and narrow (less than ½” in width), covered in tiny silvery hairs
- Stems: Slender, silvery red/orange in color
- Flowers: May – June. Male and female flowers (catkins) on separate plants.
Along the Truckee River’s banks and irrigation ditches, the moisture-loving coyote willow grows in dense thickets of up to 20 feet in height. Each individual stem may live 10 to 20 years. Coyote willow are drought resistant, and also tolerant of flooding (Anderson 2006).
All species of willow contain a compound called salicin, and any part of the plant can be brewed into a tea with painkilling properties similar to Aspirin (Vizgirdas & Rey-Vizgirdas 2006). For Great Basin Native American tribes, the long, flexible stems of the coyote willow were useful for basketry and other woven items (Mozingo 1987).
Coyote willow are pollinated by insects, and seeds are dispersed by wind and water. They are a food item for mule deer and beaver (Anderson 2006).
References & Links
Anderson, Michelle. 2006. Salix exigua. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/salexi/all.html [2016, May 30]
Mozingo, Hugh. 1987. Shrubs of the Great Basin: A Natural History. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.
USDA Plants. 2016. Salix exigua (Narrowleaf willow). Available http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=saex [2016, May 30]
Vizgirdas, Ray and Edna Rey-Vizgirdas. 2006. Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.