Balsam Willow

balsam willow
© Paul Marcum, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
Botanical Name: Salix pyrifolia
Family: Salicaceae Native to: Eastern North America, Interior North America
Hardy to zone: 0
Natural habitat: swamps & bogs, waters edge
Shapes: clump
Height: 1-13ft
Growth rate: fast
Unique attractions: winter interest
Common uses: naturalized plantings
Light: full sun
Soil: tolerates wet feet, wet
Reproduction type: dioecious

Balsam willow is a shrub to small tree native to all provinces of Canada and some northern US states. Its habitat includes waters edge, fens, roadsides, and clearings.

balsam willow
© Steven Daniel, all rights reserved

Branches are upright; twigs yellowish to reddish brown. Shining reddish buds and twigs add winter interest. Buds and leaves have a spicy balsam fragrance and can last 100 years in herbarium samples.

Leaves are elliptic with pointed ends. Upper surface is glossy and glaucous underneath. Green or brown Catkins appear in May with the leaves of just before; Seeds have wooly tufts.


E-Flora BC. (n.d.). Salix pyrifolia Andersson. Retrieved from

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2007). Salix pyrifolia. Retrieved from

MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. October 23, 2020.

Tree Canada. (n.d ). Balsam willow (Salix pyrifolia). Retrieved from