Black Willow

Geographic Distribution:

The wood commonly known as Black Willow is known to botanists and other scientists as Salix nigra.  S. nigra grows throughout the eastern United States,

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to S. nigra as Black Willow from here forward.

General Characteristics:

The heartwood of Black Willow is a reddish or grayish brown, sometimes with darker streaks. The sapwood is white to tan, and isn’t always clearly or sharply demarcated from heartwood.

Black Willow usually has an interlocked or irregular grain with a medium to fine uniform texture.

Black Willow is rated as non-durable to perishable in terms of rot resistance and Black Willow is also susceptible to insect attack.

Working Characteristics:

With its low density and interlocked grain, Black Willow has very poor machining characteristics, frequently resulting in fuzzy surfaces or tearout. Willow also tends to develop numerous drying defects and can be difficult to season. Black Willow glues and finishes well. Black Willow is reported to respond moderately well to steam bending.

Black Willow is not reported to have any characteristic odor.

Pricing and Availability:

Black Willow isn’t a rare tree but it isn’t commonly harvested in the United States for timber purposes so it is difficult to source although when it is available it tends to be a relatively inexpensive wood.

In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence.  These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.

At this time, none of my favored vendors are offering Black Willow.

Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers.  In your search for Black Willow this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings.  I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.

A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer.  I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand.  It happens to me all the time!

Common Uses:

Black Willow is most commonly used in the making of baskets, as a utility wood, and for crates, furniture, carvings, and other small specialty wood items.


Black Willow is NOT listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices nor is it listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

To the best of my knowledge, the United States government does not place any restrictions on Black Willow.

I realize that inherent in working with wood is the killing of a part of the natural world that may be slow to return and if I become deeply concerned about this fact, I will have to find a new hobby.  I hope that such a time does not come to pass or at least not any time soon.  In part because I am concerned about legally and responsibly obtained wood, I am reluctant to buy from sellers outside of well-established and known vendors.  I am highly unlikely, for example, to purchase any wood from auction sites, such as Ebay, because of uncertain sourcing and documentation, as well as the potential, even likelihood, of material being misidentified in order to achieve a higher selling price.