Beaver takes a bite of willow alongside Thompson Creek.
Why do we love willow so much? It grows fast. It shades streams where coho salmon spawn and juvenile salmon spend their first year. It shades out invasive grasses. Its catkins provide food and nesting material for birds. And it entices beavers—the best wetland engineers on the planet—to come, eat, and build.
Here nature photographer Neal Maine shares images of a few of his favorite willows in action in North Coast wetlands.
Limbs of old willows twist above a tributary of Ecola Creek in Cannon Beach.
Owners of a piece of boggy property in Cannon Beach pruned back this willow, which only encouraged it to sprout new willow shoots. The rooting hormone present in willow is so powerful, gardeners use “willow water” to jumpstart propagation of other plants.
After these willows in the same Cannon Beach bog blew down, new willows emerged from the now-horizontal trunks and began reaching for the sky. Note the scars from the rubbing of elk antlers.
On the right bank of the Necanicum River, just downstream of Klootchy Creek County Park off US 26, a willow blew down; its offspring now buttress that riverbank, slowing erosion.
Here’s a closer look at that riverbank willow patch.
This old, contorted willow is, in effect, dead. But it’s still giving life, serving as habitat for birds and harboring a robust colony of mushrooms.
A beaver gnawed down this mature willow at Thompson Creek, which only encouraged it to sprout new growth.