White Willow
(Salix alba)
Simple
Linear
Alternate
Tree
Minutely toothed

leaves

alternate arrangement

tree

distribution map

The alternate leaves up to 8 cm long and about 6 times as long as broad, are covered on both surfaces, when young with silvery-grey, flattened (appressed) hairs, denser beneath. They have finely toothed margins and narrow gradually to a point. The short leaf-stalk is under 10 mm long.

ID check

White Willow is a deciduous tree up to 25 m tall with ascending branches forming a narrow crown and a deeply fissured greyish-brown bark. It is a common tree, found by streams and rivers, which is often pollarded (see below).

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

The narrow catkins are 3-5 cm long and erect or spreading on a short stalk. The males have yellow scales and anthers but the shorter females are green.

The twig colour is variable and includes cricket-bat willow with purplish twigs, golden willow with yellow twigs and scarlet willow with red twigs.

Facts

  • Pollarding involves cutting off the branches above the reach of grazing animals, to give a crop of small poles for fencing, basketry or firewood.

  • Cricket-bat willow trunks are cut into triangular segments about 75 cm long, each making one bat.

  • Attacks by a gall-mite cause the leaf-margins of young leaves to curl upwards from June onwards

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