Arizona Willow / Center For Plant Conservation
Search / Plant Profile / Salix arizonica
Plant Profile

Arizona Willow (Salix arizonica)

The flowers (catkins) of the Arizona willow appear during the months of April to July. Photo Credit: Joyce Maschinski
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Salicaceae
  • State: AZ, CO, NM, UT
  • Nature Serve ID: 142880
  • Lifeform: Shrub
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/25/1988

Arizona willow is a small shrub that forms prostrate mats, single shrubs, or large hedges or thickets ranging from several centimeters to 3 m tall, but typically less than 8 dm tall. Its shiny oval leaves have finely serrate margins and are gland-tipped. Young stems of this species are bright red, and flowering occurs between the months of April and July. (Arizona Game and Fish Department 1999) The Arizona willow was proposed for listing as an endangered species with critical habitat in 1992, known at that time only from Mount Baldy in east-central Arizona. New populations discovered in southern Utah in 1994 have expanded the known range and, subsequently, the Arizona willow was withdrawn from listing in April 1995. Specimens identified as Salix arizonica (by R. Dorn and D. Atwood) were collected from New Mexico in 1995-1996 (deposited at the UNM Herbarium), further expanding its range to the north-central mountains of New Mexico. (USFWS 1995)

Where is Arizona Willow (Salix arizonica) located in the wild?


This species is found in high elevation (8550 to 10000 ft, or 2608 to 3050 m), unshaded to partly shaded, wet meadows, streamsides, and cienegas. Soils are moist and not very rocky. (Arizona Game and Fish Department 1999)Often co-occurs with other willow species, including Salix monticola, S. geyeri, S. bebbiana, S. boothii. Salix arizonica can be distinguished from these other species by its glabrous (shiny) leaves--all other Salix species in the area have glaucous (white, frosted) leaves.


Found at high elevation sites in Apache County, Arizona, as well as in New Mexico and southern Utah. (Arizona Game and Fish Department 1999)

States & Provinces:

Arizona Willow can be found in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah

Which CPC Partners conserve Arizona Willow (Salix arizonica)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

Katie Heineman
  • 12/21/2022
  • Cryo Orthodox Seed Banking

Per communication with Chris Walters at NLGRP, Salix arizonica cuttings have produced good survival results in a cryoexposure test with small sample size, which attests to the applicability of the technique. However, Salix seeds may also be stored by at -18 C in orthodox seed banks if quickly processed and stored. So, cryopreservation may not be the only option for this species.

Katie Heineman
  • 12/21/2022
  • Propagation Research

Through the CPC-USFS Region 3 rare plant seed banking agreement, the Institute for Applied Ecology collected conservation cuttings from three meta populations (eight subpopulations) of Arizona willow throughout Santa Fe National Forest including the Pecos Wilderness and San Pedro Parks Wilderness in summer 2022. Cuttings are currently being maintained for later germplasm storage on a propagation block. In total, IAE collected 246 cuttings from 123 maternal plants. 

Center for Plant Conservation
  • 11/25/2021
  • Reintroduction

Because ungulate herbivory was identified as a potential threat to Salix arizonica in northern Arizona, to test the extent to which cattle and/or elk herbivory impacted plant growth and survival The Arboretum at Flagstaff augmented an existing population in June and August 1995 with a total of 170 plants. Joyce Maschinski propagated experimental plants from 2 of the 3 existing plants in the population -the only ones healthy enough and large enough to use. Establishing plants required three trials and very sturdy caging. Each plant had fencing with three 5 foot fence posts. Experiments indicated that both elk and cattle ate plants and reduced plant growth. After the herbivory experiments were completed, the introduced plants remained at the site to augment the population. By Oct 1995, 128 plants survived the experiments and climatic conditions. By Sept 2002, 54 plants persisted at the site and by June 2005 41 remained. All remain in cages to protect from herbivory and a few have produced female flowers. No seedlings have been observed.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Threats include: Livestock grazing Water impoundments and diversions Recreation Road construction Elk grazing Timber harvesting Rust infection (unidentified) Invasive, non-native plants (USFWS 1997; Arizona Game and Fish Department 1999

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

8 populations in Arizona, 4 in New Mexico, and 5 in Utah. The Utah populations are extremely large with thousands of individuals.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010
  • Reintroduction

Studies by Maschinski (2001) have shown that Arizona willow growth and reproduction is significantly impacted by grazing animals. Because numbers of cattle and elk are very high in New Mexico and Arizona, the populations there are threatened to the greatest extent. A depauperate population in Arizona on Stinky Creek was augmented with approximately 100 caged individuals. Once through an establishment period, the willows persisted, but there is no evidence of seed germination.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Very large populations in Utah are stable. In Arizona there is a conservation agreement for the protection of the species. Most of the populations are either caged or have had livestock excluded. There is intention by the USFS to monitor populations in New Mexico and Arizona. (Arizona Willow Interagency Technical Team 1995)

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Continued monitoring is necessary to assess levels of browsing damage by cattle and wildlife. Cages protecting the Arizona populations should be repaired. Studies on the biology and ecology of the unidentified orange rust that has been found on some populations of this species.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010
  • Tissue Culture

Seed is recalcitrant, therefore plants must be maintained vegetatively. Valerie Pence at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is studying tissue culture techniques with different species of willow embryos.


Be the first to post an update!

Taxon Salix arizonica
Authority Dorn
Family Salicaceae
CPC Number 3794
ITIS 22501
Duration Perennial
Common Names Arizona bush Willow | Arizona willow
Associated Scientific Names Salix arizonica
Distribution Found at high elevation sites in Apache County, Arizona, as well as in New Mexico and southern Utah. (Arizona Game and Fish Department 1999)
State Rank
State State Rank
Arizona S2
Colorado S1
New Mexico S1
Utah S2
Ecological Relationships

Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting
The Arboretum at Flagstaff Arizona Reinforcement 1995

Donate to CPC to Save this Species

CPC secures rare plants for future generations by coordinating on-the-ground conservation and training the next generation of plant conservation professionals. Donate today to help save rare plants from extinction.

Donate Today