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Arctic Willow

arctic willow

Salix arctica


The arctic willow is a shrub that never exceeds more than 60 centimeters in height and grows in clumps that form dense mats on the tundra.

Habitat and Distribution

The arctic willow is common on tundras in North America. Europe, and Asia. You can also find it in some mountainous areas in temperate regions.

Edible Parts

You can collect the succulent, tender young shoots of the arctic willow in early spring. Strip off the outer bark of the new shoots and eat the inner portion raw. You can also peel and eat raw the young underground shoots of any of the various kinds of arctic willow. Young willow leaves are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, containing 7 to 10 times more than an orange.

Steve's notes:

Most willows also contain aspirin-like compounds. Make a tea from the bark, and you can use it as an aspirin substitute.

The chewed strips of bark have been used to treat rashes, minor burns and insect bites. Just chew to soften the bark, and apply.

Willow bark has also been chewed to clean teeth and prevent cavities.

The flexible branches of many willows have been used to make fish traps and baskets.

Strips of willow bark can be twisted together to make twine, but it is strong only when wet. It gets brittle once it dries.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Arctic Willow