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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

21. Salicaceae, the Willow Family

2. Salix L. -- Willow

1. Salix alba L. -- White willow


Large tree to 20 m tall; twigs golden yellow to orange, brittle or sometimes flexible; branchlets spreading, golden yellow to dark brown, glabrous with age. Leaves dark green and shiny above, white-glaucous beneath, glabrous to sparsely sericeous beneath, lanceolate to narrowly lanceolate, acuminate and often symmetric at the tip, cuneate at the base, mostly 4-10 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, serrate, mostly with 7-10 glandular teeth per cm of margin; petioles glandless or with minute vestiges of glands at the summit, 0.5-1.5 cm long; stipules caducous, lanceolate, entire, 2-4 mm long, sericeous. Catkins appearing with the leaves; female catkins 3-6 cm long, on leafy branchlets 1-3(5) cm long; bracts yellowish-green to pale yellow, early deciduous, pubescent, ciliate at the tip; stamens 2. Capsules ovoid-conic, 3.5-5 mm long, glabrous, nearly sessile or on stipes to 1 mm long. Flowering May, fruiting early Jun. Intro. from Europe and frequently escaping to wet areas from shelter belts and ornamental plantings throughout the region; (widely established in temperate N.Amer.; Eurasia).

The prevalent form in this region is the yellowstem white willow, S. alba var. vitellina (L.) Stokes. The golden yellow to orange twigs characteristic of this variety are especially conspicuous during winter and early spring. Typical S. alba has gray or brown twigs and persistently white-sericeous leaves. S. alba hybridizes freely with S. fragilis and many collections seem to show introgression with that species.

GIF- Distribution Map

Map key


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Return to Family -- Salicaceae - The Willow Family
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