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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

21. Salicaceae, the Willow Family

2. Salix L. -- Willow

5. Salix discolor Muhl. -- Pussy willow


Shrub or small tree to 5 m tall; twigs reddish-brown to dark brown, dull, glabrous to slightly pubescent, rarely densely pubescent; branchlets spreading, yellowish-brown to nearly black, tomentulose, often glabrous with age. Leaves bright to dark green above, pale to white-glaucous beneath, glabrous, not rugose beneath, only the primary veins, if any, raised on the lower surface, elliptic to narrowly ovate or narrowly obovate, acute to short-acuminate, cuneate to narrowly rounded at the base, mostly 3-10 cm long, 1-3 cm wide, subentire to more often shallowly and irregularly crenate-serrate; petioles glandless, 5-20 mm long; stipules deciduous, often persistent on vigorous shoots, obliquely ovate to flabellate, 3-10 mm long, about as wide, glabrous, sometimes deeply lobed. Catkins emerging and maturing before the leaves; female catkins sessile, sometimes with 2 or 3 minute, bractlike leaves at the base, soon deciduous after capsule dehiscence, 2-6(9) cm long; bracts persistent, black or very dark brown, villous; stamens 2. Capsules ovoid with a long neck, 5-10 mm long, finely pubescent; stipes 1.5-4 mm long. Flowering mid Apr--early May, fruiting mid May--early Jun. Swamps, fens, stream banks, floodplains, marsh borders, ditches and other wet places; e, c and nw ND, ne SD and the Black Hills, most common e and n; (Newf. to B.C., s to DE, n GA, KY, IL, n MO, SD, WY and ID.)
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Salix discolor, as catkins emerge in spring. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
GIF- Distribution Map

Map key


Previous Species -- Salix candida Fluegee -- Sage-leaved willow, hoary willow
Return to Family -- Salicaceae - The Willow Family
Next Species -- Salix eriocephala Michx. -- Diamond willow, Missouri willow

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