Salix cinerea

cinerea = ash gray

Gray Willow or Gray Sallow

This native of Europe and east to Siberia is a branching shrub or small tree with gray bark and grows from 10-20 ft. Branchlets are densely pubescent (downy) at first and gradually lose the fuzz; the gray bark appears and is distinguished by raised strips (striae) beneath the bark. Leaves are generally wider towards the tip and tapered toward the petiole (leaf stem). Upper surface is a dull green and downy; the lower surface is densely pubescent at first and gray as they age. At the base of the petioles are two large ear-shaped stipules that are somewhat persistent. Abundant large flowers open before the leaves appear in March and April and the male pussies are especially showy.

USES: a great ornamental shrub for medium sized gardens.



Male catkins burst out of dark gray/brown catkins, start silver, turn gray, then pink and finally yellow with pollen.

A typical-shaped Gray Willow bush on Brier Island, Nova Scotia.

below: coppiced stems growing quickly in the nursery.

Typical reticulate (netted) foliage of the Gray Willow, somewhat shiny on the upper surface and dull gray-green on the lower.

Leafy stipules at the base of the petioles (leaf stalks).

  Honey bee collecting pollen and nectar from fully open catkins.


Left: The smooth gray bark is how this willow gets its name. When you rub the bark there are raised linear areas that are part of the trunk, not the bark; they are called striae by botanists and are one more way of determining the identity of a species.


Species present

Species present, not rare

Distribution of Salix cinerea, an Introduced Species

Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP


Flower buds developing in late September.

By late October flower buds have turned bright red.

The fireworks begin with the appearance of the anthers in mid-April

Gray flower buds bursting open in mid April releasing the silver pussy-willows, that turn gray, then deep pink.

A female selection from the Holden Arboretum in Ohio. Top left is when she is at her prime ready to receive pollen from the legs of bees. The others show swelling ovaries after pollenation. Early May.

Ridges/striae under the bark of this willow.

By late April there is a plethora of pollen as every stem is covered in catkins.

This is typical for pussy willows after coppicing the previous Spring.


of Michael Dodge