Purple Willow
(Salix purpurea)


Winter twig
Winter twig

twig and catkins

distribution map

The leaves are in opposite pairs, up to 8 cm long, shiny above and paler below. They are hairless, almost parallel-sided, and narrow abruptly into a short point with a very finely toothed margin. The short leaf-stalks are less than 10 mm long.

ID check

Purple Willow is a deciduous shrub up to 5 m in height, with shining, hairless, often purplish twigs and a greyish bark. It is found on river banks, in fens, marshes and other wet places.

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

The catkins are 15-30 mm long, erect or curved with no stalk. The hairy males have red or purple anthers but the females are green and more slender.

It is the only native willow with opposite or almost opposite leaves.


  • It is commonly planted for ornament because of its colourful stems.

  • Cultivated in some parts of Britain as an osier, and frequently cut for basket-making.

  • The male catkins may be attacked by a gall-midge, which causes a downy, greyish-white mass to grow at the tip

Return to Index Page