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Arctic Willow (Salix arctica), Thule, Greenland
Salix arctica (arctic willow) is a tiny creeping willow (family Salicaceae). It is adapted to survive in harsh arctic and subarctic environments, and has a circumpolar distribution round the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Willow is a food source for several arctic animals. Muskoxen, Caribou, Arctic Hares and Lemmings all feed on the bark and twigs, while the buds are the main food source of the Ptarmigan.
Both the Inuit and the Gwich’in make use of this willow. Twigs would be used as fuel, while the decayed flowers (suputiit) could be mixed with moss and used as wicking in the kudlik. The plant was used for several medicinal purposes, such as relieving toothache, helping to stop bleeding, curing diarrhoea and indigestion and used as poultice on wounds. Both the Gwich’in and Inuit in the Bathurst Inlet area were known to eat parts of the arctic willow, which is high in vitamin C and tastes sweet.