Black Willow vs Weeping Willow: What’s the Difference?

black willow vs weeping willow
© Tatyana Volkova/Shutterstock.com

Written by August Croft

Updated: October 8, 2022

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Given just how many trees there are in the world, do you know any differences between the black willow vs weeping willow? These are only two out of the roughly 400 different types of willow trees, so what makes them similar to each other, and what makes them different? If you are interested in learning more about willow trees, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we will compare and contrast the black willow tree with the weeping willow tree, including where these trees both originated. We will also go over their physical descriptions so that you can learn how to tell them apart on first glance. Finally, we will tell you where these trees grow best in case you are interested in planting either of them in your backyard. Let’s get started!

Comparing Black Willow vs Weeping Willow

Black Willow vs Weeping Willow
The weeping willow is a native tree to China and other locations in Asia, while the black willow is native to the United States.
Black WillowWeeping Willow
ClassificationSalix nigraSalix babylonica
DescriptionNarrow, thin green leaves covering every branch. The leaves turn slightly yellow in fall before leaving the tree bare. Branches spread outward rather than drooping, and the bark is a rich brown-black colorSignature appearance with long, thin branches that droop or weep down around the trunk. Rich gray-brown bark and bright green leaves that turn yellow in fall. Leaves are long and narrow, ribbon-like in appearance
Average Height/Size50-75 feet tall; 30-50 feet wide, depending on pruning60-85 feet tall; 5-35 feet wide, depending on branch spread
Hardiness Zones4-9; requires a moist and wet environment and full sunlight in order to thrive4-10; prefers moist environments, though can handle some dry climates. Enjoys some sunlight per day, but can handle shade
Special FeaturesRelies so heavily on water that its roots seek out sewer lines underground!A centuries-old tree that was traded on the Silk Road!

Key Differences Between Black Willow vs Weeping Willow

black willow vs weeping willow

The weeping willow grows with its thin branches drooping down toward the ground, while black willow branches are thicker and spread outward by comparison. 

©Gerry Bishop/Shutterstock.com

There are a number of key differences between the black willow and the weeping willow. For example, the weeping willow grows taller than the black willow, though the black willow often grows wider than the weeping willow. In addition, the branches of the black willow tree grow outward, while the branches of the weeping willow tree droop down toward the ground. 

Let’s take a look at all of these differences and more in detail now. 

Black Willow vs Weeping Willow: Classification and Origin

The black willow tree and the weeping willow tree are related to one another, though they are both different varieties of trees in the Salix genus. For example, the black willow is classified as Salix nigra, while the weeping willow is classified as Salix babylonica. The weeping willow is a native tree to China and other locations in Asia, while the black willow is native to the United States.

Black Willow vs Weeping Willow: Description

black willow vs weeping willow

Black willow trees grow at an average of 50 to 75 feet before dying, while weeping willow trees grow an average of 60 to 85 feet.

©Axel Bueckert/Shutterstock.com

You can easily tell the difference between a weeping willow and a black willow once you recognize the classic appearance of the weeping willow tree. For example, the weeping willow grows with its thin branches drooping down toward the ground, while black willow branches are thicker and spread outward by comparison. 

The leaves of the black willow tree are very similar to the leaves of the weeping willow tree, as they are both in and ovular in appearance. However, the bark of the black willow tree is darker and the bark of the weeping willow tree, despite them both being uniquely textured. It is easier to tell a black willow tree apart from a weeping willow tree by looking at the entire tree, rather than individual parts, given their unique and separate silhouettes. 

Black Willow vs Weeping Willow: Average Height

Depending on where the tree has been planted, the weeping willow grows taller on average compared to the black willow. For example, black willow trees grow at an average of 50 to 75 feet before dying, while weeping willow trees grow an average of 60 to 85 feet. However, the black willow tree is wider on average compared to the weeping willow tree, likely due to the way its branches spread outward. 

black willow vs weeping willow

Weeping willow trees need some level of sunlight per day but can survive in a shady location, while black willow trees require full sunlight in order to survive.

©Sue Burton Photography/Shutterstock.com

Black Willow vs Weeping Willow: Hardiness Zones

Given that they are related to one another, the weeping willow tree and the black willow tree have fairly similar hardiness zones and growth requirements. However, the black willow grows best in hardiness zones 4 through 9, while the weeping willow tree grows best in hardiness zones 4 through 10. It has slightly more opportunities in this respect, though both of these trees have fairly specific growth requirements. 

For example, black willow trees thrive in moist environments and are often planted along rivers, while weeping willow trees also require moisture, but not quite as much. In addition to this, weeping willow trees need some level of sunlight per day but can survive in a shady location, while black willow trees require full sunlight in order to survive. 

Black Willow vs Weeping Willow: Special Features

black willow vs weeping willow

The weeping willow is a centuries-old variety of tree that was commonly traded on the Silk Road, while the black willow tree was not.

©Tatyana Volkova/Shutterstock.com

You likely already know how special the weeping willow is, based on its overall appearance, but are you aware of some of the special features that both of these trees have? The weeping willow is a centuries-old variety of tree that was commonly traded on the Silk Road, while the black willow tree was not. However, the black willow tree has its own unique feature: it craves water so much that the roots will actively seek out sewer lines underground, so be sure to plant with care!


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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