Species Profile

Barrens Willow

Scientific Name: Salix jejuna
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Newfoundland and Labrador
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2001
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1+2c; D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Highly localized limestone barrens endemic occurring at only a few sites and subject to habitat loss and degradation from land use activities.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in May 2001.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Barrens Willow

Barrens Willow Photo 1



The Barrens Willow is a dwarf, woody shrub that forms small mats, and reaches 1 to 2 cm in height. It has trailing branches 10 to 40 cm long. The stems and branchlets are reddish-brown and hug the ground. Leaves are elliptic or almost circular with a waxy upper surface and in-rolled edges. Dense clusters of inconspicuous flowers called catkins grow just below the previous year’s shoots at the tip of the branchlets. Male and female catkins grow on separate plants.


Distribution and Population

The Barrens Willow is unique to Canada. Its range is restricted to a narrow stretch of coast extending north from Four Mile Cove to Cape Norman at the end of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula off the Strait of Belle Isle. Populations occur at four locations: Cape Norman, Lower Cove, Big Brook and Four Mile Cove. Very little is known about population numbers and trends, but the species continues to occur in its historical range. The largest population is on Cape Norman, where the species occurs at numerous sites, with a total of 33 plants. At the other three locations, one to several specimens have been observed.



The Barrens Willow is found only on the narrow coastal stretch of limestone barrens in the Strait of Belle Isle ecoregion. It grows in exposed gravely and rocky limestone areas with little vegetation and a thin layer of low-nutrient soil. It may grow in moist depressions where gravel and silt accumulate between large blocks of limestone and where seasonal flooding occurs. It can also grow in dry, exposed areas. The region is characterized by cool summers and cold winters.



The Barrens Willow is adapted to life in a harsh environment. It grows only in calcium-rich soil. Male and female flowers, which grow on separate plants, develop in late June or early July and are pollinated by insects or wind. The seeds are wind-dispersed. A very high percentage of seeds germinate if conditions are right. This species may also reproduce by producing roots from spreading underground stems. An individual specimen may live up to 100 years.



Harsh winds and scarce nutrients limit Barrens Willow numbers. Its habitat is also eroded by wind and water. Plants near the ocean may be subject to damaging storm wave action, flooding and salt spray. The Barrens Willow is threatened by habitat loss and damage caused by humans. Removal of limestone from quarries, road maintenance, all-terrain vehicle use and garbage dumping degrade the plants and their habitat. Entanglement in fishing nets spread over the plants to dry may also cause damage.



Federal Protection

The Barrens Willow is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Barrens Willow is protected by the Newfoundland and Labrador Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, trade, or possess members of this species. This species occurs within the provincial Watt’s Point Ecological Reserve.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna Fernald) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Limestone Barrens Species at Risk Recovery Team, NL

  • Susan Squires - Chair/Contact - Government of NL
    Phone: 709-637-2963  Fax: 709-637-2080  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

5 record(s) found.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna Fernald) in Canada (2018-06-20)

    The Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna Fernald) is endemic to the limestone barrens of the Strait of Belle Isle on the northwestern part of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. It is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, from land use activities. It was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2001 as an endangered species, and listed as such under the Newfoundland and Labrador Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The recovery goal for this species is to secure the long term persistence of the natural population throughout its range. Achievement of this goal is primarily dependent upon the removal or mitigation of anthropogenic threats.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna) in Canada (2018-06-20)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Barrens Willow and has prepared this action plan to implement the recovery strategy, as per section 49 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Summary of the Action Plan for the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna) in Canada (2009-09-15)

    The Action Plan for the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna) in Canada was due for posting on the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry by October 25, 2007, for a 60-day public comment period. Further consultations with key stakeholders and landowners are required before the posting on the SAR Public Registry. Environment Canada is leading the development of the Action Plan for the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna) in Canada and will continue to work in cooperation with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure the action plan is completed and posted on the SAR Public Registry at the earliest opportunity.

Residence Description

  • Residence Rationale - Barrens Willow (2007-01-02)

    Individual Barrens Willow plants do not appear to use a dwelling place similar to a nest or den, and therefore do not qualify for having a residence. There would be no additional legal protection not already afforded by protection of the individual and its critical habitat.

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of the Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna) Order: Part II, Volume 153, Number 14 (2019-10-29)

    The Barrens Willow (Salix jejuna) is a low-lying deciduous shrub found only on the limestone barrens on the northwestern part of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. The main threats to the Barrens Willow are loss and degradation of habitat due to human activities. This species was listed as endangered in 2003 under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
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