Salix pellita

pellita = covered with skin (referring to the glossy leaves)  

Satiny Willow

Shrub of northern beaches and riverbanks that grows from 2-18ft depending on location; the Satiny Willow is a distinctive shrub or small tree, found mainly in eastern Canada and bordering States. It takes its name from the lustrous, velvety leaves. The leaves are long, narrow and pointed, with straight, wavy, or slightly notched margins, that roll inwards. They are green above and densely silky-hairy beneath with a grayish, bluish, or whitish waxy coating on the underside. The hairs are whitish or sometimes rusty in colour--ours are pure white. In contrast, the upper surface of the leaves is glossy and hairless, or has only a sparse covering of fine hairs. The branches of the satiny willow are extremely brittle at the base and are reddish-brown or yellow-brown, with a grayish waxy or powdery coating. Flower buds appear in late summer and have reddish brown bud-scales and are pointed at the tip. Catkins appear in early Spring before the leaves and grow 1–1.5in long. The anthers (pollen sacs) appear on long white filaments (stalks) somewhat reminiscent of a pincushion! George Argus, the pre-eminent Salix taxonomist in North America, kindly shared cuttings of this truly beautiful plant with me. Can easily be confused with the non-native S. viminalis that has naturalized in some areas, but the leaves of S. pellita are shinier and whiter underneath; also the twigs of the Satiny Willow are much more brittle at the base. Hardy to Zone 3.

USES: A highly ornamental shrub with the handsome leaves that flash white when the wind blows showing the undersides. Tolerates a wide variety of soil types from sandy beaches to our heavy, wet, clay-based loam.




Present in County

Present in State

Present but rare

Distribution of Salix pellita in the US and Southern Canada

Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP



Undersides of the leaves are covered with a waxy white bloom and are one of the whitest in the genus! This is a clone given to us by a Canadian friend!

Stems are covered with a waxy white bloom that is easily rubbed off, often exposing red stems beneath.

Flower buds appear in the axils of the leaves

at the end of September.

The catkin turns gray as it matures..

Here a pussy willow flower is breaking out of the bud scale. Another flower bud below.

A mature plant in the Montreal Botanic Garden; lots wider than it is tall!

Leaves can grow 5-6in and have distinctive crinkled (reticulate) appearance on the upper surface!

Our original plant is female and has orange stigmas that appear out of the silver-white hairs.

Silver-white catkins burst out of red overwintering buds in late winter and last for weeks.

Here's our original female plant in the nursery, much taller than the selection in the Montreal Botanic Garden.

Stems in late summer are red and the flower buds for next spring are starting to develop; they are typical in shape for the species.

The leaves are distinguishable because of the deep reticulation (netting).

A young shoot in late summer with a very unusual occurence of a female catkin in the terminal of a shoot! Next year's flower buds appear in their "normal" leaf axils. Sorry, there's no guys around at this time of year!

In late October the leaves start to fall exposing the very pointed flower buds.

Then in April the buds open to expose their treasure! Pussy Willows!

A friend gave us some cuttings of a male selection of the Satiny Willow and here it is flowering for the first time in early-May.

In late October Salix pellita is a dazzler! with white undersides and a pink midrib to the leaves, pink catkin buds in the leaf axils and the waxy white coating on the stems that is colored by the dark bark beneath.

In late October the leaves start to turn golden-yellow in a brilliant display.


of Michael Dodge