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An elegant tree attaining in the wild, under optimum conditions, a height of 100 ft or more, but more commonly a medium-sized tree, often with several trunks; bark dark, deeply furrowed; branchlets yellowish at first, becoming reddish brown by autumn, soon glabrous; winter-buds small, with free inner margins. Leaves lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, sometimes falcate, tapered or rounded at the base, narrowing gradually to a long fine point, finely and regularly toothed, 3 to 5 in. long, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. wide, palish green, and almost or quite glabrous on both sides except on the midrib; stalk 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long, downy. Stipules often large, semi-heartshaped and persistent. Catkins produced on short leafy shoots in April, 1 to 3 in. long, slender. Stamens three to five, the filaments hairy in the lower part. Ovary glabrous, distinctly stalked; style very short, with small bilobed stigmas.
Native of eastern and central N. America, extending into N.E. Mexico; introduced in 1811. It is the largest of the American willows and is lumbered in the Mississippi delta, where heights of up to 140 ft have been measured and diameters of 7 ft. But more frequently it is rather a huge bush than a tree. It is not so elegant a tree in this country as in the United States, although quite hardy. It has rather the aspect of a small, densely branched S. alba.
S. gooddingii Ball – Closely allied to S. nigra, but the branchlets remaining yellow through the winter, somewhat broader leaves, and often hairy ovaries. Native of California, the southwestern USA and northern Mexico. On pruned plants at Kew the young bark is olive-green.