Osier
(Salix viminalis)
Simple
Linear
Alternate
Shrub, Toothless, Deciduous

leaves

branches

Male catkins
Male catkins

Female catkins
Female catkins

distribution map

The leaves are alternate, closely packed and drooping; over 10 times as long as wide and up to 15 cm long and tapering gradually to a long point. The leaves are thinly hairy above and silky, silvery haired below. The margins are untoothed but turned over and the leaf-stalk is rarely over 10 mm long.

ID check

Osier is a  tall, deciduous shrub or small tree up to 6 m high with long, slender, flexible branches which grows by rivers and streams on deep, moist soils avoiding those which are strongly acid.

Male and female catkins are borne on very short stalks towards the tips of twigs on separate trees (dioecious) and open before the leaves in early spring.

Female catkins are up to 3 cm long and densely hairy: the males are smaller, about half that length, and distinguished by their bright yellow anthers.

Flask-shaped female fruits are very hairy and release wind-blown seed from April to June.

Facts

  • Like other willows it produces long straight stems when coppiced which are ideal for basket-making.

  • The catkins are important sources of nectar and pollen for bees and wasps flying early in the year.

  • The margins of the leaves are often damaged by a gall midge

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