bebbiana = named after Michael Bebb,
19thC botanist and Salix specialist
Bebb’s, Diamond or Beaked Willow
This is one of the commonest native willows found in North America, including our property. It is also native as far west as California and Alaska (see map below), and even across the Bering Straits into Russia and Siberia. Called the Diamond Willow because of the attractive diamond pattern on the bark of mature tree, and the Beaked Willow because of the shape of the female seed capsule. The foliage and habit are quite diverse over such a large area. It produces masses of catkins a little later than other early flowering native willows in Fairfield VT such as S. discolor, S. petiolaris and S. eriocephala. It tolerates a wide range of soils (including swampy) and flowers best in full sun. As with all trees, do not plant near drainage pipes/septic systems. Hardy to Zone 2 (one of the hardiest willows we offer). In the mid 1990's we discovered, much to our horror, that this species would no longer produce roots on cuttings. I checked with the willow experts at Cornell University and they were experiencing the same phenomenon. It germinates very easily from fresh seed.
USES: large ornamental shrub or small tree (some of mine are 25ft tall), but can be coppiced every 2 years to produce lots of young stems for basketry. It makes a fine specimen plant and if lower twigs are removed as it grows, the diamond pattern of the bark will be more noticeable. We and other growers have had difficulty rooting this species from cuttings although it grows very easily from seed and seedlings are found all over our property.
This multi-trunk specimen is over 20ft tall and almost as wide.
In the middle of other trees; hard to photo the whole plant.
Below are male catkins of S. bebbiana in various stages of development in late April.
Above and below are female catkins of S. bebbiana in various stages of development. Early May.
Below are young branches showing reddish-pink at first and dark red in the second year.
The foliage is uniquely crinkled--a distinguishing feature. Mid May.
Three native willows on our property which is old pastureland returning to woodland.
Without clearing with a brushhog, these would eventually become Maple/Ash forest, with willows shaded out.
Left to right: S. discolor, S. petiolaris, S. bebbiana. Mid-May
A young seedling plant in one of our meadows in mid-May.
Present in County
Present in State
Present but rare
Below a male bush on our property struts its stuff for passing bees and puts on quite a show. Early May.
Crinkly (reticulate) leaves of Bebb's Willow is an easy way to identify this willow.
Crinkly (reticulate) leaves of Bebb's Willow is an easy way to identify this willow. The long narrow red flower buds with a curled tip also help with the ID. August.
Undersides of the leaf are bluish green and densely covered with short fine hairs.
A seedling male plant covered in catkins in the corner of our winter garden in early May.
An intimate look at a female catkin with stigmas sticking out awaiting to receive pollen in early May.
Here are the "beaks" of the Beaked Willow on a fertilized female catkin in mid-May.
Mature trunks of Bebb's Willow found on our property in Vermont, clearly showing why it's called Diamond Willow.
This is an unusual specimen we found on our property in that it has finely matted hairs on the red stems. Maybe some hanky-panky with another species?
Here's a "How do you do": An androgynous catkin on a wild plant on our 50 acres! Mid-May.
The long green beaks are the female parts and the little nubby pinkish parts are what's left of the male parts.
Did their thing and withered away! Hmmm!
left: here's a feature of Salix bebbiana that's useful in identification: the raised areas of the bark are due to swollen striations on the trunk. Mid-May
Need shrubs for a seaside garden and to stop erosion? Salix bebbiana works really well. Other willows nearby were Salix discolor and Salix humilis.
Here growing naturally by the sea on the Aspotogan Penninsula, Nova Scotia.
Distribution of Salix bebbiana in the US
Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP
of Michael Dodge