Canada’s Arboreal Emblems:

Nunavut — possible candidate: Willow (genus Salix)

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There are around 400 species of willow (Salix spp) in the world, of which dozens are native to Canada. Several species of willow grow in Nunavut including the Bebb willow. With a high tolerance for moisture, willow are often found growing in moist soils around water in environments such as meadows, swamps, and riverbanks.

Willow leaves are alternate, narrow, tapering, and are finely toothed. Flowers are grouped together on catkins in both male and female trees. On male trees, catkins produce pollen, and female trees produce seeds that are pollinated by wind or insects. Seeds are usually very small (1-2 mm) with long white tufts of hair.

The bark is usually smooth and has a bitter taste due to the presence of salicylic acid, a compound that has been historically extracted for use in pain relief. Canada’s First Nations peoples have known about and used willow bark as a pain reliever for centuries. Willow wood is soft and light in colour and is used for pulp, crates, boxes, furniture, and small products such as baskets.

Bebb willow (Salix bebbiana)