Grey Willow
(Salix cinerea)
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
Broadest at tip
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
blunt teeth

linear leaves
linear leaves

rounder leaves
rounder leaves

female catkins
female catkins

Purple Emperor Buterfly
Purple Emperor Buterfly

distribution map

The leaves are oval, alternate, up to 9 cm long and 2-3 times as long as broad. They are often widest near the top and are somewhat shiny, dark-green above, greyish white, with a few reddish hairs, below and have an undulate, bluntly-toothed margin. The leaf-stalks are less than 10 mm long with a pair of small, ear-shaped leaf-like stipules where they join the stem, though these usually soon fall off.

ID check

Grey Willow is a deciduous shrub or small tree, with a dark brown bark, fissured with age. It grows up to 10m high and is much branched from the base, to form a round or flattened crown. It is a willow of fens, marshes, streamsides, boggy and wet woodlands. It grows to over 600 m above sea level in Scotland.

Male and female flowers are in catkins which appear before the leaves on separate trees (dioecious) in March and April.

The catkins are 2-3 cm long and erect on short stalks. The cylindrical male catkins are densely, grey and hairy with yellow anthers. The female catkins are smaller, greener and more slender.

The stems below the bark on young twigs are marked by vertical lines called striae.

Facts

  • The underside of some leaves have bean galls, about 6mm wide and 12 mm long, containing a sawfly grub.

  • The male catkins are full of pollen which is of great value to early bees and other insects.

  • The leaves are the food of the caterpillars of the Purple Emperor butterfly

Return to Index Page