Salix exigua

exigua = impoverished, poor

(refering to how it grows in very poor soil conditions)

Coyote Willow

The Coyote Willow is the Western US equivalent of the Eastern Sand-bar Willow (Salix interior). It forms thickets sandy/gravelly sandbars on the edges of streams and rivers. It is a dense clump-forming willow in that it sprouts new shoots from its widely spreading root system. Called Coyote Willow as it provides perfect cover for coyotes hide in. Exigua has long thin stems that are great for basketry, especially if coppiced; but it's greatest asset is in erosion prevention on the banks of rivers, streams and lakes. The long narrow leaves are very gray and it is really beautiful when in full leaf. In winter it has red to yellow stems that fit perfectly into the red sand/sandstone of the Southwest. Flowers are not very significant.

It can be trained as a single trunk tree and the first time I saw this was as a tree was in Savill Gardens, part of England's Windsor Great Park. It was 20-25ft tall with wonderful silver-gray foliage and was simply outstanding. Last time I was there it had been removed; so I wrote to complain to the management! HRH did not reply; but an upper-management official did (it had died)! The way to train it as a tree is to cut a 20 x 20' piece of 6 mil black polythene (or something even thicker--vinyl for example) and plant it in the middle. Groundcover cloth won't work as the shoots will force their way through the holes. Then cover the poly with gravel or mulch so the poly doesn't break up in sunlight.

FYI: Taos, New Mexico has a willow connection!

The English name Taos derives from the native Taos language meaning 'place of red willows', referring to the Salix exigua that grows there and wherever there is water and sun in the Southwest!

USES: erosion control, basketry, ornamental--with great care with location! I made the mistake once of planting it in a mixed border and it took me years to remove all the root sprouts that kept appearing. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate a selection from Western North America that tolerates the growing conditions in the East.

NB: Our cuttings of plants from New Mexico did not survive in Northern Vermont and this year we received cuttings from Matt Lavin, Montana that will be much hardier. They are now in the ground and growing. Update: these plants did not grow well iin the summer of 2019! See Matt Lavin's photo below!



Salix exigua in the garden of Pan Global Nursery in Southwest England. September

Coyote Willow in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro NM.

Sand Hill Cranes flying overhead enjoying their winter vacation. Early February.

Coyote Willow resplendent in its fall colors by the Chama River in Abiquiu NM (above) early November

and on a bank by the side of a sandstone rock outcrop (below)

Male catkins from a New Mexico inhabitant forced into flower on a windowsill.

Female catkin in the Arboretum of Canadian Experiment Farm in Ottawa. Mid-May.

Silver-gray leaves against a blue sky on a rare sunny day in England!

Here's a yellow stemmed group in the Bosque National Wildlife refuge.


Another shot of the Coyote Willow in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro NM taken on Thanksgiving weekend 2015. What a treat!

A few of the Birds of the Bosque del Apache, Socorro NM!

Red-tailed Hawk

Northern Harrier


Sand Hill Cranes

Sand Hill Cranes

Sand Hill Cranes

Snow Geese with Blue Morphs

Snow Geese with Blue Morphs

Snow Geese with Blue Morphs


Great Blue Heron (see white V) with Willows soaking for planting

Great Blue Heron



of Michael Dodge

Customer Rex Head sent me these photos of his Salix exigua and was concered about this gray covering of his stems. I was able to reassure him it was a naturally occurence on some selections. The botanical term for this is pubescence, with gray hairs of various lengths.

We also have seen Bald and Golden Eagles in both as juveniles and adults, but were not able to get good photos of them!