Saving Dune Willow

Dedicated to the study, appreciation, and conservation of the native flora and natural communities of Illinois

Saving Dune Willow

Close up of a branch of Dune Willow
Salix syrticola (dune willow) by Mark Kluge

Dune willow (Salix syrticola) is an Illinois Endangered species found at only a few lakeshore sites in northeastern IL. David Johannesen, a Plants of Concern volunteer, raised an alert in 2020 when he discovered plants were being lost to lakeshore erosion, and flooding had submerged half of the 10 remaining dune willows at Illinois Beach State Park (IBSP). Plants of Concern staff worked with Brad Semel, an endangered species biologist with the Illinois DNR, to collect a cutting from seven of the dune willows. From those cuttings, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s plant propagation team, led by Cathy Thomas, was able to grow 66 plants. Genetically mixed groupings of propagated plants were planted back at IBSP along moisture gradients in close proximity to existing dune willows for the best chance of survival and cross-pollination. Nearly 60% of the plants survived over the winter of 2020-2021. We are hoping that the mixed genetic material will lead to recruitment of new individuals at IBSP, safeguarding the existence of the species at the site and in Illinois.

Screenshot of iNaturalist map showing Dune Willow observations around the Great Lakes
Dune willow is a Great Lakes endemic species, found only in lakeshore dunes across its range. Photo and data courtesy of iNaturalist.

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