Willow – Bends without Breaking

The Arroyo Willow – Salix lasiolepis – is a native shrub or tree in California and in most Western states.

Wetland Habitat

Willo is important in riparian (creek and waterway) environments;

  • it provides habitat and food for insects, birds, amphibians and other animals
  • in spring, birds use a cottony substance released by the seeds to build nests

The Arroyo Willow likes to keep its feet wet. It spreads by sending out root runners, which create thickets. (It can also propagate from branch cuttings.)

The species is known as a freshwater indicator. As much as the Arroyo Willow likes water, it is also drought tolerant.

Erosion Control

Along with plant and animal habitat, the Arroyo Willow is used as a natural form of erosion control.

Medicinal Uses

Native Californians and herbalists use the bark and leaves to treat headaches, sore throats, and diarrhea.

Tool Making

The Arroyo Willow is used to make baskets, arrows, furniture, and flutes.


The willow grows long, straight shoots in the spring. These shoots are highly flexible and resist breakage. It symbolizes grief – (bending) and recovery  – (bouncing back).


“Respect the plant as a living thing so it’s still there the next year,” – Linda Navarro, California Indian Basket Weavers Association

Arrow Shafts and Headache Relief

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Calflora – Arroyo Willow

California Indian Basket Weavers Association

California Native Plant Society – Arroyo Willow

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy – Arroyo Willow

River Partners – Arroyo Willow
River Partners – Riparian Plant List

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Native Willow Varieties for the Pacific Northwest (PDF)

Wild and Edible Medicinal Plants


Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants by Christoper Nyerges

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources
by M. Kat Anderson


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