Salix purpurea var. sericea
purpurea = purple sericea = silky
Silky Purple Willow
This unique purpurea variety is distinguished by having dense silky hairs on the young growth; no other purpurea has this feature (there may have been some hanky-panky with another species somewhere back in time). It has been suggested that it is a hybrid with S. viminalis or a selection of S. gilgiana, but it doesn't have the vigour that the influence of Salix viminalis would have on this compact growing plant! Stems are orange-brown in the first winter and age to gray in future years. Ours is a female selection with lots of catkins that start gray and mature green. It makes a dense bush similar to S. purpurea 'Gracilis' but grows larger and more erect (6-7ft after six years) so it makes a great fence for deer protection. The leaves and stems are similar to 'Gracilis' in size and shape. Think of it as a 'Gracilis' on steroids.
USES: It’s one of the best varieties for fences to keep deer out as it grows so dense.
A fine specimen at the Montreal Botanic Gardens; about 15 x 10ft.
Detail of foliage from plant at left.
above and below: Plants in the nursery, they've been there 5 years and never been pruned.
The sericeous (silky) hairs on the young leaves and reproductive organs is how this got its name.
below: the female catkins in various stages of maturity and orange-brown first-year twigs.
of Michael Dodge