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