Salix alba L.

white willow

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

White willow is so-named for its long, tapering leaves which are downy white on the undersides. Its bark is yellow and ridged. The branchlets are brittle and break easily, sometimes leaving a litter of fallen twigs on the ground beneath the crown. Weeping willow is a hybrid between this species and Peking willow (Salix babylonica). Golden weeping willow is another cultivar of this species that can grow very large and produce leaves that turn golden in the fall. White willow is tolerant of wet soils.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), floodplain (river or stream floodplains), meadows and fields, shores of rivers or lakes, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a tree
Leaf type
the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf blade length
40–120 mm
Leaf blade width
10–30 mm
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Bark texture
the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
Twig winter color
  • brown
  • gray
  • green
  • red
  • yellow
Bud scale number
there is one scale on the winter bud, and it covers the scale like a cap
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    there is one scale on the winter bud, and it covers the scale like a cap
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Collateral buds
    there are no collateral buds on the sides of the branches
    Leaf scar arrangement
    there is one leaf scar per node on the stem or twig
    Superposed buds
    there are no superposed buds on the branch
    Winter bud distribution
    the winter buds are distributed fairly evenly along the twig
    Winter bud scale hairs
    the winter bud scales are hairy
    Winter bud scales
    the winter bud is perulate (partially or completely covered with one or more scales)
    Winter bud shape
    • the winter buds are ellipsoid (elliptical in three dimensions)
    • the winter buds are ovoid (egg-shaped)
    Winter bud stalks
    the winter buds have no stalks
  • Flowers
    Anther color
    • the anthers show no hint of a pink, reddish or purplish tint
    • there is a noticeable pink, reddish or purplish tint to the anthers
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower petal color
    NA
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Hypanthium present
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Inflorescence position
    the inflorescences grow on the twigs
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is an ament (catkin; slender, usually pendulous inflorescence with crowded unisexual flowers)
    Number of pistils
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower lacks sepals and petals
    Petal appearance
    NA
    Petal fusion
    NA
    Sepal appearance
    NA
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Sepal tip glands
    NA
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    NA
    Stamen number
    1 or 2
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is clear and watery
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a tree
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    • the underside of the leaf has hairs on it
    • the underside of the leaf has no hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    • the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    there is a noticeable powdery or waxy bloom on the underside of the leaf
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    the hairs on the leaf blade are different from the choices given
    Leaf blade length
    40–120 mm
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is coriaceous (has a firm, leathery texture)
    • the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the main veins of the leaf blade are pinnate (the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the main central vein) and non-arcuate (not arched towards the leaf tip)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base toward the tip
    Leaf blade width
    10–30 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the plant is broad-leaved (with broadly flattened leaf blades)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    the leaf stalk has nectaries on it
    Leaf stalk shape
    the leaf stalk is not flattened
    Leaf teeth
    • the leaf blade margin has teeth, which themselves have smaller teeth on them
    • the leaf blade margin is serrulate (with forward-pointing) or denticulate (with outward-pointing) with tiny teeth
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant, or they fall off as the leaf expands
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of wetlands
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • river or stream floodplains
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor, or it has an unpleasant or repellant odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    the branches are brittle, and break easily
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Lenticels on twigs
    there are no lenticels on the twigs, or they are very hard to see
    Pith shape
    the outline of the pith in a twig is roughly round
    Pith type
    the pith inside the twig is solid, completely filled with spongy tissue
    Short shoots
    there are no peg- or knob-like shoots present
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hairs
    the twigs have hairs, but the hairs do not have glands
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig scales
    there are no scales on the twig surface
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • gray
    • green
    • red
    • yellow
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. alba

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. caerulea

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. vitellina

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Salix nigra:
leaf blades green on the lower surface, with small, but evident, stipules at the base of the leaf stalk (vs. leaf blades with a whitish bloom on the lower surface, without or with minute stipules at the base of the leaf stalk).

Synonyms

  • Salix alba L. ssp. caerulea (Sm.) Rechinger f.
  • Salix alba L. ssp. vitellina (L.) Arcang.
  • Salix alba L. var. caerulea (Sm.) Sm.
  • Salix alba L. var. calva G.F.W. Mey.
  • Salix alba L. var. vitellina (L.) Stokes
  • Salix vitellina L.

Family

Salicaceae

Genus

Salix

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Salix alba L. E

white willow.  1a. Salix alba L. ssp. caerulea (Sm.) Rechinger f.; S. alba L. var. caerulea (Sm.) Sm.; S. alba L. var. calva G.F.W. Mey.; S. alba L.  ssp. vitellina (L.) Arcang.; S. alba var. vitellina (L.) Stokes; S. vitellina L.; • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Riparian forests, river banks, roadsides, field edges, wetland margins, near dwellings. There are four forms of this willow that occur in New England. The “vitellina” form has bright yellow to bright orange-yellow winter branchlets and floral bracts commonly 3–3.5 mm long. The “caerulea” form has brown to green-brown winter branchlets, floral bracts 2.5–3 mm long, mature leaf blades often longer than 10 cm, 1.5–2 cm wide, and usually becomes glabrate on the abaxial surface. The “alba” form has branchlets and floral bracts similar to the preceeding, but has leaf blades 5–10 (–12) cm long, 0.5–1.5 cm wide, and often remain long-sericeous on the abaxial surface. A fourth form, which may be referable to “micans” of Europe, is similar to the “alba” form but has the leaf blades densely and persistently long-sericeous with white hairs. These forms are regarded as valid infraspecific taxa in Europe (where they occur as natives; e.g., Meikle 1984) but are treated as cultivars by some North American authors (e.g., Argus 1986). Until the appropriate rank to treat these taxa can be determined, they are here recognized informally.

1×16. Salix alba × Salix lucida Salix ×‌jesupii Fern. has been incorrectly called S. ×‌ehrhartiana by various New England authors (but that hybrid has S. alba and S. pentandra as parents and is not known to occur in New England). Salix ×‌jesupii is known from CT, MA, NH, VT. This hybrid is a tall shrub or small tree 4–8 m tall with abaxially glaucous leaf blades (rather than green and not glaucous in S. lucida) that show a mixture of white and red-brown hairs. The blades are mostly 2.8–4.8 times as long as wide (vs. mostly 4.2–7.3 times in S. alba). The staminate flowers have 3 or 4 stamens (rather than 2 in S. alba).

Salix babylonica L. Salix ×‌sepulcralis Semonkai is primarily responsible for reports of S. babylonica in New England, which is an Asian species that is not hardy in the northeastern United States. Salix ×‌sepulcralis is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, VT. It is recognized by its conspicuously pendulous branches and branchlets and gold-yellow (or less frequently green-yellow) branchlets. It is very similar to another S. babylonica hybrid in New England called S. ×‌pendulina; however, that nothotaxon has green-brown (or less frequently yellow-brown, gray-brown, or red-brown) branchlets.

Salix euxina I.V. Belyaeva. Salix ×‌fragilis L.  [Fig. 887] is a frequent willow hybrid known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. It resembles S. alba but has sparsely pubescent to glabrous leaf blades, coarser, sometimes slightly irregular, teeth, and larger, asymmetrical stipules. From S. euxina it differs in its amphistomatous, usually abaxially sparsely pubescent leaves and relatively loosely flowered aments (leaves both glabrous and hypostomatous and aments relatively densely flowered in S. euxina). This hybrid, which is fully naturalized in riparian and lacustrine floodplains, is responsible for reports of Salix euxina in New England (note: S. euxina was formerly referred to as S. fragilis, and this hybrid was formerly referred to as S. ×‌rubens Schrank; Belyaeva 2009). The nothovarietal epithet “ basfordiana” applies to our material; however, the appropriate combination has not yet been made.