Willows are winter-deciduous trees or large shrubs in the Salix genus of the willow family (Salicaceae) that usually grow in wetlands. They are host plants for the caterpillars of the Lorquin's admiral, mourning cloak, Western tiger swallowtail, and green comma butterflies. In addition, native birds such as lesser goldfinches, acorn woodpeckers, and white-crowned sparrows frequently use willows for food or shelter.
Willow branches are known for their flexibility. For that reason, the Nisenan people have traditionally used them for basket weaving and for construction of dome-shaped homes.
Six willow species are native to West Sacramento, and these are the only six willow species that are native anywhere in Yolo County.
Narrowleaf Willow (Salix exigua) is a 10- to 20-foot-tall tree or large shrub that is native throughout West Sacramento. It prefers full sun and usually grows in wetlands.
Polished Willow (Salix laevigata) is a 50-foot tall by 50-foot-wide tree that is native throughout West Sacramento. It prefers full sun or partial shade and usually grows in wetlands.
Shining Willow (Salix lasiandra) is a 20- to 30-foot-tall shrub or small tree that is native throughout West Sacramento. It prefers partial shade and usually grows in wetlands.
Arroyo Willow (Salix lasiolepis) is a 35-foot-tall by 15-foot-wide tree or large shrub that is native throughout West Sacramento. It prefers full sun and usually grows in wetlands.
Dusky Willow (Salix melanopsis) is a 7- to 13-foot-tall tree or large shrub that is native in patches of West Sacramento, along the Sacramento River and the Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel. It prefers partial shade and grows only in wetlands.
One other member of the willow family is also native to West Sacramento but is not an actual willow. Frémont's Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) is a large tree that can grow to be more than 100 feet tall and about 35 feet wide. It prefers full sun and does not need anywhere near as much water as willows do. It can grow just about anywhere!