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Native willow species for basketry in the PNW?

 
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heya,

anyone have any favorite willow species for basketry? or any other favorite native basketry plants? im in NW washington.

thanks!
 
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Depends on whether you're growing your own, or harvesting offsite IMO.

Obligatory disclaimer: as always, be careful of how much you take from native species. Also note that most folks prefer the non-natives for basketry, and several are naturalized to the PNW; Salix purpurea is a favorite for weaving that won't be a huge loss if you accidentally over-harvest.

Anyway, one of the best I know of in west WA is Hooker's Willow (Salix hookeriana.) Tends to stick within a few miles of the coast, like most willows it likes good sun and a wetter soil but seems to take sand or clay equally happily.

If you're stuck with drier soil, Scouler's Willow (Salix scouleriana) takes good sun and more average garden moisture, but might try to take over your space.

Hope this helps!
 
zurcian braun
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Hi Carolyn, thanks for the response!  

While we do gather basketry material from wild plants that we tend, we’re at a new home and currently planting perennials so I was hoping to seek out some native willows to plant that can make good weavers.

Do you do any coppicing or burning etc of these willows to help generate good weaving material? Scouler's willow is quite large and Hooker's also can get pretty big in comparison to the classic European basket willows like S. purpurea (whom many people coppice every year).
 
Carolyn Bailey
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Good afternoon, and you're very welcome! I'm far from an expert, I suspect true artisans have a much more informed process- but I don't coppice the Scouler's. The patch I frequent isn't on my property, but it's so vigorous when well placed that it could be a good candidate.

Hooker's might be a different story? I unfortunately don't have much to contribute there re: cultivation, I had no luck with it at home (I'm in Oregon's Willamette Valley, probably too hot/ not enough fog) and the coast stands I visit aren't doing very well lately. But when I was lucky enough to try some in the past, I found it easier/ more pliable to work with than the Scouler's, and less tall. The sunniest stands tend to stay shorter and I'm sure cultivation keeps them shorter, too. An annual winter prune taking 1/3 of the branches might be enough to keep it producing nicely (similar to Red Osier dogwoods if you've done that?)

I'm unfamiliar with burning willows. I wasn't aware they tolerated fire, assumed they wouldn't be adapted for it given usually wet conditions they grow in. I'm iffy about a full coppice on a native species, only because I garden for wildlife and try to disrupt the critters as little as possible, but would be curious to hear if it works.
 
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Howdy,

I am not a willow expert. I watched a friend of mine weave baskets and she said she was using red willow. I was also on a tree planting gig in Idaho, Salmon river/Riggins area and she had collected a bunch of willow and was weaving baskets in camp, don't know the name, but it was local and we were camped on the Salmon River below Riggins.

Some of the more common ones here in the PNW, are Mackenzie Willow(Salix mackenzieana}, Scouler Willow(Salix scouleriana). Both of these show large range of growing area, Mackenzie, from B.C. Canada, down thru Washington, Scouler from Alaska down thru Washington. Hooker Is only a small area of coastal Washington.
Scouler is one of the "pussy willows, and I have one that grew here, wild plant(birds?), and I am able to prune off long thin branches for ???. I have tried to plant cuttings around the same area, with no success, that I have seen. I did work on some riparian planting projects where we planted a variety of native species, one being willow but I don't recall which one. These were just cuttings with no root and we just poked them in the ground in wetlands, along rivers, streams etc.

I floated the Colorado River/Grand Canyon and there are 8 different types of willow that grow in the canyon. One being so straight that it was actually called arrow willow and used for such purpose. Most of these willows in the canyon never reach any height, as they are swept away in river floods, but always come back. The Native history of the Grand Canyon is something worth exploring. Native Peoples lived year around, grew corn, squash, beans, used native materials daily in their lives, never leaving the canyon.
 
zurcian braun
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Thank you both for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I’ll try to post an update at some point.

As far as coppicing goes, indigenous people were burning lands regularly around here for 1000s of years until they were forcibly stopped from doing so (We see what mess that’s gotten us into but that’s for a different thread!!). Burning was done for a variety of reasons but one was to tend and maintain basket weaving materials.

Though, because of cedar, I think there was less of an emphasis on willow in the far nw for basketry but I don’t know. I’m originally from the northeast, where I’m really accustomed to the flora and the traditional  human relationships with those plants. Just learning here in an awkward I’m-not-from-here sorta way.
 
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What about vine maple and the native beaked hazelnut? I don't make baskets (though I really want to learn) but I have heard of people using them for baskets, among other things. They are quite common and coppice well.
 
pollinator
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i've always wanted to grow some really pretty willows for potential basket making/other crafts, like the black willow or other darker colored willows to get different effects.
i have grown some curly willow, actually i have a few small rooted cuttings going on for planting somewhere...but it is a bit trickier to weave, i suppose. its also more visually interesting...like weaving with passionflower, its a bit tricky to weave it but gives interesting results.
and actually curly willow isnt all curly, its actually straight in many areas, and gentle curvys in some spots, then others on the tips like corkscrew.

i sort of played around a bit with the common west coasts willows that grew around me. i think they are - shining willow  - Salix lucida or that was my best guess at ID for the ones most common everywhere around me on the west coast.
 
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