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Sand Dune Willow (Salix cordata)

Life history

Species overview

Sand Dune Willow (Salix cordata), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found on Lake Michigan dunes. Blooming occurs throughout May; fruiting occurs throughout June. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through early September.

Synonyms: Salix adenophylla, Salix cordata var. cordata, Salix syrticola


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Leaves green beneath, usually permanently wooly; pedicels 0.5 to 1 mm. This genus is notoriously difficult to distinguish to the specific level when not in flower.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers unisexual; staminate catkins (also called aments) with 2 filaments and developing on branchlets with green, densely silky bracts; anthers yellow; pistillate catkins with glabrous ovaries and styles usually greater than .5 mm; pistillate bracts narrowly ovate.
  • Fruit characteristics: Lanceolate, 5 to 8 mm, smooth.
  • Leaf characteristics: Alternate, lance-ovate to broadly ovate, 4 to 8 cm long by 1.5 to 4 cm wide, abruptly tapering to a sharp point, the margins concave at the tip, glandular-serrate, rounded or cordate at the base, green on both sides, strongly nerved beneath.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout May
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout June
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late May through early September


  • Growth form: Shrub
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Salix rigida, S. interior, Ammophila breviligulata, Calamovilfa longifolia, Elymus canadensis, Juniperus communis, Artemisia campestris.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Sand Dune Willow (Salix cordata). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Salix cordata in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on Lake Michigan dunes.
  • Soils: Sandy and alluvial soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Sand Dune Willow. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Great Lakes Dune 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Sand Dune Willow. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Central Lake Michigan Coastal 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Avoid any activities which destabilize the dune, including the use of off-road vehicles, removal of native vegetation and pedestrian recreational overuse.
  • Avoid disturbance to shorelines and the forest-beach interface.


Sand Dune Willow Photo.

Photo © William S. Alverson.

Sand Dune Willow Photo.

Photo © William S. Alverson.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition