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Black Willow is a common tree that is found in every county of Illinois (see Distribution Map), where it is native. Habitats include bottomland woodlands that are prone to regular flooding, swamps, riverbanks and low areas along rivers, borders of lakes, gravelly seeps, and seasonal wetlands that dry out during the summer.
Black Willow prefers full or partial sun and wet to moist conditions. This tree adapts readily to a wide range of soil types, but it is more typical of heavy soil containing some clay or gravel, rather than sand. Black Willow grows rapidly, but it is rather short-lived. Because of its soft wood, this tree is prone to storm damage, and its widely spreading roots can clog water and sewer lines.
Special features: Birds eat the catkins, and other animals eat the bark and twigs. It is well-adapted to streamsides and is planted to reduce erosion.
Culinary use: Many willows (Salix species) have bitter-tasting bark that contains derivatives of salicylic acid, the main compound in aspirin.
Ornamental use: Black willow provides some of the only economically important wood in the willow genus (Salix).
The light but sturdy wood was once used for making artificial limbs, and is still used for fashioning boxes and making pulp.
Medicinal use: It can be used to alleviate sleeplessness, poor appetite and muscular pain.
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