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Audubon® Missouri Willow
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In his book, Nature’s Best Hope, entomologist and nature writer Doug Tallamy talks about the importance of planting “keystone plants” in our gardens. Keystone plants are natives that support the greatest number of insect species, such as oaks, cherries, birches, cottonwoods, elms, goldenrods, asters, and sunflowers. If your environment boasts wet conditions, consider adding a willow to your garden. Missouri Willow is a fantastic option that takes the form of a large shrub or small tree. The many, many insects it hosts will nourish innumerable songbirds and other critters you share your space with.
May Benefit & Attract: chickadees & titmice, sparrows, wood warblers, thrushes, wrens, woodpeckers, mockingbirds & thrashers, crows & jays, waxwings, vireos, cardinals & grosbeaks, nuthatches, orioles
Take Birds Under Your Wing
New! Introducing our bird-friendly collection of Audubon® Native Plants & Trees
- Better for Birds, 100% Neonic-Free
- Not Available in non-native regions, states or counties (see Native Regions map)
Bower & Branch is proud to grow Audubon® Native Plants for Birds in partnership with the National Audubon Society to help birds and other wildlife thrive.
- The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow
- This bird-friendly native plant provides food and shelter for local and migrating birds and other wildlife
- Your purchase and planting of this native flora directly supports Audubon’s conservation mission and impact
- Learn how you can help birds in your home and community through Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- Audubon Native Plants & Trees are free of neonicotinoids and exclusively grown by Bower & Branch
Audubon® is a licensed and registered trademark of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved.
- Hardiness Zone: 2-8
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Missouri Willow, or Missouri River Willow, is not restricted to Missouri, but grows natively throughout much of the eastern U.S., from North Dakota to Maine. It is not very abundant south of the Ohio River, though some populations exist in Alabama. It grows along waterways and helps greatly to stabilize the soil there. Also called the “Heart-Leaved Willow,” its leaves are not at all heart-shaped, but narrow and elliptical like most other Willows. Early Americans used the flexible branches of Missouri Willow to weave baskets. They also used the plant as a pain reliever and fever reducer. The bark contains salicin, a compound that acts like aspirin.
Missouri Willow is a magnificent butterfly tree! If they escape the birds, some of the caterpillars that feed on its foliage will become beautiful butterflies. Your tree may be a host to viceroys, red spotted purples, Lorquin’s admirals, mourning cloaks, and green commas. Some really stunning moths may make it to adulthood on your Willow, too, such as the cecropia, the twin-spotted sphinx, and the big poplar sphinx.
How to Grow
Full sun and damp soil are the major requirements for Missouri Willow. This is a fast-growing tree (or large shrub) that takes on a vase-shaped habit. It is easy to grow and needs no special care. One strange thing you may find on your Missouri Willow is a pinecone-shaped structure on the branch tip. This is a Willow pinecone gall, the home of a tiny midge. It is nothing to be concerned about. Little pruning will be necessary on your Missouri Willow, but if you do prune late in the year, don’t destroy the clippings. Some lovely butterflies overwinter as caterpillars in rolled-up Willow leaves.
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