November 10, 2015

Salix exigua

By Andrea Luella Gohl
Turkey Creek/Gila
October 14, 2015

N 33°03.80’
W 108°29.10’
Elevation: 4639 feet
(175 miles from Albuquerque)

After spending the last few days weaving our little Land Arts hearts out, I have enhanced my appreciation for basket weavers everywhere.  Did you know that all baskets are made by hand?  There are so many things in our lives, which are manufactured by machines, but baskets are not one of these. 

Our primary weaving material while at the Gila River was (Salix exigua) Coyote Willow, also known as Narrow Leaf Willow or Sandbar Willow.

After a bit of research, here is what I learned about this plant:

The small branches and young shoots of the plant are flexible and are ideal for basket weaving (first hand observation).  Larger branches are also quite bendy and can be used for an assortment of building needs.  The bark of the plant can be stripped off and used to make cord.  Along with all the building materials this plant provides, the bark and leaves can be used for medicinal purposes.

It is in the Salicaceae family, which also includes willows, poplar, aspen, and cottonwoods.  Salix exigua can be found throughout most of North America including as far north as Alaska and as far south as northern Mexico. 

It is Rhizomatous, which means that it propagates by sending out roots horizontally and plant stems shoot up from that.  It has a rapid growth rate and can grow to a maximum of 10 feet in height.  It is often found along creeks and rivers.  Coyote Willow is a perennial.

Center: Salix exigua being prepared for basket weaving. 

Bottom right: My boots.  Right: Legs of camp chair.

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