Crack Willow
(Salix fragilis)


simple leaves


distribution map

The leaves are narrow, alternate, 9-15 cm long and up to 3 cm wide. They end in a point, often turned in one direction and have coarse, single-toothed margins. They are dark, shiny-green and hairless above, bluish-green and hairy only when young, below. The stout leaf-stalk is 5-15 mm long.

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Crack Willow is a deciduous tree up to 20 m high, with a short, thick trunk, a deeply ridged bark and a rounded crown. It has wide-spreading branches and brittle, fragile twigs which break (crack) cleanly at the base, when bent down. It grows by rivers and streams and in other wet areas.

Male and female flowers are in catkins, which appear with leaves on separate trees (dioecious) in April and May.

The catkins are 4-6 cm long. The male catkins have pale yellow scales and golden-yellow anthers.

The female catkins are also yellow. The flowers have short, 2-lobed stigmas, and mature into white woolly seeds in summer.


  • Crack Willows growing on river banks help to control erosion by holding the soil together.

  • The leaves often have bean galls, 6 mm wide and 12 mm long, projecting above and below containing a sawfly grub.

  • Charcoal made from the wood is favoured by artists for drawing

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