Riparian Plants: Sandbar Willow - Salix exigua
Sandbar willow can be a dominant species in willow scrub communities and is common in mixed riparian forests. Sandbar willow is moderately shade tolerant. These willows require root access to the water table within 2 meters, which typically places them on low elevation floodplains. With this proximity to the channel, they can contend with physical battering and long duration floods. They have multiple, small diameter stems (most <10 inches) that bend or break under high flows. They can re-sprout easily from branches that break off, which makes sandbar willows easy to plant in restoration using cuttings. They are adapted to coarse and medium grain soils, and require bare gravel or sand substrate that is moist to germinate and develop.
Sandbar willows grow as erect, small shrubs in willow scrub communities and as small trees in mixed riparian forests. They can reach up to 8 meters tall. They spread quickly through root sprouting. Sandbar willow frequently forms a wide patch of several small diameter stems. Sandbar willow thickets and sandbar willows in mixed riparian forests create ideal nesting substrate for many songbirds. The leaves of sandbar willows attract multiple insects, and both leaves and branches make good foraging material.
For more information about the ecological tolerances and structure of riparian plants, see Gaines 1977, Conard and others 1977, Holstein 1984, Sacchi and Price 1988, Faber and Holland 1996, Cooper and others 1999, Vaghti 2003, Fremier and Talley 2009, and Vaghti and others 2009.
Sandbar Willow dimensions