Carolina willow

Salix caroliniana
Family: Salicaceae

Natural Historybaldcypress branch
Leaves of Carolina willow
Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida

Carolina willow is a small, slender tree found near wetland areas such as streams, swamps, marshes, and retention ponds. Its range includes the sandy wetlands of the Mid-Atlantic States and throughout the southeastern coastal plain. Carolina willow is also called coastal plain willow or swamp willow.

Carolina willow usually occurs as a multi-branched shrub and can become a small tree. The tree is too small to be economically valued. Some identifying tips require the use of a magnifying glass. Carolina willow has yellowish glands on the tips of the serrated leaf margin. With magnification, you can see these glands either on the tip or in the notches between the teeth. Also surrounding the base of young leaves are small, rounded wing-like leaves that resemble the ears of a mouse.


Habitat & Range

Carolina willow grows in the moist, fertile soils near streams, ponds, rivers, and other wetlands. Other associated species include cottonwood, silver maple, Florida sugar maple, pop ash, and green ash.


Wildlife Use


Human Use

Carolina willow contains salicin, which has similar effects as salicylic acid, a component of aspirin. In the past, Native Americans powdered the bark, leaves, and buds to extract salicin for medicinal purposes such as relieving pain.


Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Carolina willow is a small tree that reaches heights of 30' to 35'. It is usually small and shrub-like with multiple stems. It has a broad, open crown.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, deciduous, and 2 ½" to 5 ½" long by ½" to 1 ¼" wide. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves usually have green upper surfaces while the underneath surface is whitish. The leaf base is wedged or rounded and have small, rounded wing-like leaves around the leaf stem. The leaf tip is tapering and pointed. The leaf margin is finely serrated with tiny yellowish glands on the tips or in the notches of the teeth. The leaf has a firm papery texture.
Bark: The grayish-brown bark is smooth at first and has shallow furrows and thick ridges as it ages.
Fruit: The fruit is a cone-shaped capsule that is less than ¼" long.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:
  • Black Cherry also has simple, alternate leaves with finely serrated margins, but the leaves are not as narrow and are not lance-shaped.



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