Salix xbalfourii  

(caprea x lanata)

Balfour's Willow

We had this willow for 4 years without knowing what it was as it obviously came mislabeled! I have been excited about it ever since I bought it, but couldn't offer it as I didn't know what to call it! I wrote to taxonomists and horticulturists for assistance, to no avail. In 2014 I nailed it down to Salix x balfourii! This is a deliberate cross made in Scotland by the botanist E. F. Linton in the late 19th century and named after the eminent Scottish botanist John Hutton Balfour. Linton crossed two species--the Goat Willow (Salix caprea) and the superb dwarf Woolly Willow (Salix lanata). The result? A shrub that grows 4-10ft high and 8-15ft wide. The large, abundant male catkins appear before the leaves and put on quite a show. These are followed by large gray-green leaves that are resplendent in their own right. I coppice mine every year as I don't want such a large shrub and it rewards me with lots of new growth covered with flowers, then by almost tropical foliage! By the way, I bought is as S. hastata 'Wehrhahnnii', choice in its own right, but not as spectacular as Balfour's Willow. Hardy to Zone 4.

USES: Cut flowers and a great ornamental shrub!



Balfour's Willow produces masses of male catkins in early May.

It's is a great source of pollen for early foraging bees.

In early April, as grass starts to green up, the buds break open and out pop the silver catkins that grow larger until the anthers break out with their yellow pollen (late April).

Below: Male catkins in various stages of growth.

Plants in the nursery, the back one was uncoppiced this year so it is much taller.

Typical abundant growth from coppiced plants. Mid-August

A fully mature male catkin with furry leaves starting to expand. Late-April

Beautiful grayish-green, clean-looking foliage on young growth in August.

Late April and most of the pollen has been removed by busy bees. Still a great show!

The undersides of the leaves are even more downy than the upper surfaces.

Male catkins putting on a great show.

Late September and next year's flower buds appear in the axils of the leaves.

When the buds burst they do so down the middle, just as Salix caprea does. Mid-April

A misty, rainy day in late-April and magic was in the air!

Free flowering, just like Salix caprea! What a great hybrid; truly inspired! Late April.


of Michael Dodge