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Also known as sand dune willow, heartleaf willow, or furry willow, dune willow is native to sand dunes but grows readily with a loose form in gravelly, silty, loamy, or clay soils with consistent moisture. Native willows are considered a keystone species (a species that helps define and support an entire ecosystem), in part because its yellow catkins attract numerous species of native bees, butterflies, skippers, and beetles. The flowers emerge with red-tinged foliage in May and June, giving way to smooth fruit capsules in mid-summer.


Salix cordata thrives in full sun and typically grows 3-6' tall. According to iNaturalist, it's rarely seen above 6' tall, but can occasionally reach heights of 12 feet. Height can be controlled by pruning or cutting to the ground in late winter to early spring.


Native habitats include beaches, dunes, river banks, and lakeshores. Dune willow’s clumping form and smaller stature make it a great addition to stream banks, edges of ponds, gravelly areas, rain gardens, and low-lying areas. It can be used to help stabilize soils.


Plant Characteristics:

Most often grows 3 to 6 feet tall.


Grows best in full sun; resistant to verticillium wilt.


Prefers average to wet gravelly, loamy, silty, or clay soils.  


Yellow flowers appear May through June.  Large, spiky catkins emerge with the leaves, and give way to fluffy seed heads in mid-summer. (Seed photo credit: Clare Holden, on iNaturalist)


Young leaves are red tinged and covered with white hairs.  Mature, lance-shaped leaves are thick and green with woolly undersides and finely serrated margins.


Twigs are coated with white hair; mature branches have smooth, reddish bark.


Wildlife Value:

Dune willow is a larval host for 328 species of Lepidoptera, including the camouflaged looper moth that incorporates parts of the plant it's feeding on into its disguise in order to escape predation. Willows are among the earliest blooming plants in spring when our native pollinators are emerging from their overwintering sites.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

The bark, twigs, leaves, leaf buds, and flower buds of willow plants contain phenolic glycosides, particularly salicin, which is an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever that helped to produce the common aspirin. An infusion of the bark is used to stimulate appetite and treat colds and blisters. A poultice is used to treat bruises and skin eruptions. 

Willow, Dune, Salix cordata

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  • We happily purchase or trade other plant material for locally gathered native seeds. Please provide pictures of the mature plant if possible, ideally fruiting or flowering for best ID

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