Willow Branches Everywhere

The last rain season has done wonders for the SFPUC’s local reservoirs and watersheds. The season was also the ideal time for putting plants in the ground for environmental restoration of the Alameda Watershed Lands. 

SFPUC biologist Aaron Sunshine planting willows.
Fully-Grown Arroyo Willow.

Of late, SFPUC’s Calaveras Dam Replacement Project biologists have devoted themselves to willows. A total of 36 willows have been planted by the downsteam building of the newly-constructed Replacement Calaveras Dam alongside Calaveras Creek. The types of willows planted were red willows (Salix laevigata), Arroyo Willows (Salix lasiolepis) and Narrowleaf or sandbar willows (Salix exigua). All are native to California and to the watershed. 

There are approximately 400 species of willows worldwide. It is not hard to find them as they typically are located by a water source. That’s because willows like their roots to be very wet, and they prefer year-round moisture.

The interesting part of willows is that they are easy to propagate. An entire willow tree can grow from a single branch.

Maintaining the area with willows.

The best time of the year to cut and plant is during the winter, preferably in January. Calaveras Dam Replacement Project biologists harvested branches from willows within the watershed and planted them along Calaveras Creek as part of the project’s restoration plan.

The willows will be monitored annually for the next five years to ensure that they are growing and thriving. 

Once fully grown, the willow trees will provide good nesting for songbirds such a as the Woodwarblers, Song Sparrows, and the California Towhees. The new trees and will also be a good foraging habitat and cover from predators for many species too.