There's a low lying area on my property with lots of impenetrable shrubby willows growing in the sun, along with sensitive ferns, marsh marigolds, and poplar. The growing zone is USDA 5b but in this dip it's probably closer to 4. Soil is clay-ey. The willows grow approximately 20' high. (I should have taken a leaf closeup last summer... unfortunately, didn't.) The upper branches appear reddish in winter when viewed from a distance, but not as bright as red osier dogwood.

I'm curious if these willows are native and if they're useful to wildlife or to me, and what I should look for when it comes to differentiating willow shrubs. Any ideas what species or kind these willows are?

Thank you!

spring spring
summer spring
winter winter

Click on image to enlarge.

2 Answers 2


Here is a key to Massachusetts willows that lists about 17 representative species. Willows are very useful to honey bees, being one of the first species to bloom in spring when food is short after a long and intense winter. we don't see any "pussy willow honey" marketed because the pollen and nectar are hard to collect in cold weather and what is collected is rapidly used up in spring colony expansion.

Height is a very useful indicating characteristic, whether it is single stemmed or thicket forming, plus the size and shape of the leaf and whether the leaf margin is toothed or not. Twig colour can also be helpful.

Please update the question when the leaves and flowers appear.

  • Thanks for the link and helpful info! I appreciate the tips on what to look for when identifying willows and was already planning to get honeybees come spring. (I wish there was a beekeeping/animal husbandry StackExchange site.) I'll update the question when the flowers and leaves emerge.
    – Kilobyte
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 14:59

Perhaps it is Salix purpurea, the Streamco Willow?

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