Salix purpurea

purpurea = purple (young stems)

Purple Willow

This is a male form of the species that is responsible for producing so many variations;

we were generously allowed to take cuttings of this plant from the Arnold Arboretum in 2014 (their accession number AA1045-79-D). This forms a vigorous upright shrub with somewhat arching branches when mature. The leaves and stems are very bitter as it contains large amount of Salicylic acid; too bitter for animals to eat! What is so amazing about this selection it that it is the most rust resistant purpurea I have in my collection of 26+ varieties! Rust is not usually a problem in most willows, but in exceptionally rainy springs and summers, several may be infected—as are many other types of plants.

It has showy male flowers typical of the species that appear before the bluish-gray leaves, typical of the species, appear. It is a European and Western Russian native that has naturalized widely over Northeastern North America (including Fairfield VT) and the NW Pacific Coast. One such plant, a wildling in a ditch by the side of the road I had admired for many years for it's very slender growth, was removed to build a driveway last year. Luckily I had taken cuttings of it the previous year. So now I will see how it compares with all the others! Dried rod color:

USES: Deer resistant hedges, fedges, screens; like all the upright purpureas it is good for basketry etc.

This is a group of three plants of S. purpurea at the Canadian Experiment Station Arboretum in Ottawa showing what an imposing specimen these make! Probably 25ft across and 15ft high!

Distribution of Salix purpurea that has naturalized in North America

Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP


Young coppiced plants in the nursery in August, showing vigour and lots of straight stems!

What a willow!

A Salix purpurea screen seen in North-central Vermont.

A male catkin in all its glory!

Typical flowering stem of a young plant.

From the previous years cutting!

Flower buds form in the leaf axils in September.

August foliage of this selection of the Purple Willow.

At right, the glaucous undersides of the leaves and reddening stems that darken through the winter.

At left: This is a Salix purpurea I found growing right on the edge of a pond at the Montreal Botanic Garden in 2016. I doubt it was planted in such a location, so it may have been a discarded branch from pruned bushes nearby. It must have had its roots in the water, because in the worst summer drought we have had in several years, this bush had leaves almost twice as long as any other Salix purpurea selection in their collection. I would say this species prefers lots of water. I took cuttings (with permission) to see if this was normal growth for this waif.

Behind Taxonomist Stephane Bailleul of the Montreal Botanic Garden, is a willow planted in 1937 labelled Salix purpurea x sp.? It must be a hybrid, it's so tall!

Three weeks later than the above photo the stems and buds are much redder.

A Salix purpurea tunnel in the Molde Botanic Garden, Norway, June 2017.


of Michael Dodge