Salix sericea

sericea = silky willow

Silky Willow

This native species is found only in the Eastern half of North America where it forms a large shrub 10–12ft tall. The branchlets start bright green and become purplish with age. The young stems are downy at first before turning smooth. Leaves are reddish for a short period and then turn bright green; both sides of the leaf are covered in silver, downy hairs at first, then the upper surface loses it's hairs and the undersides remain silky and glaucous. Has stipules at first but they soon drop off. Flowers are produced before the leaves and early in the year. The bud-scales rounded, blackish and hairy. Catkins are 0.5–2in long and less than 0.5in wide. We may have this species on our property but we haven't been able to verify that yet. As we have seven native species in close proximity on the property we may have hybrids, which really complicates their identification. One distinguishing feature of this species is that young branches snap off very easily! Hardy to Zone 3.

As you can see in the photo at right, they love wet places and will even grow in water!

USES: a tidy ornamental shrub, especially if it's coppiced every 3-4 years.



Present in State

Present but rare

Considered extinct

Distribution of Salix sericea in the US and Canada

Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP


A female plant in full bloom. Selected by the USDA for vigor, hardiness and dense rooting system for streambank restoration.

Mid May.

Male catkins opening (red) and fully open.

That's Lily behind adding more color to the photo, good match? Early May.

Here is a healthy, vigorous plant with its roots mostly in the water of Wentzell's Lake, Nova Scotia.

Obviously loving the gravelly soil and constant moisture. Late August.

This is a plant in the nursery that was two years old and happy in the wet, clay loam. Mid June.

Healthy young growth on the plant shown above, with red-tinged new leaves.

Late August.

Late September and the leaves have turned dark green and hairless above.

Next years flower buds well developed. Late September.

Shoots on a wild plant in late August, the upper surface still pale green and the undersides glaucous (blue-green).

Red stamens are popping out of the male catkins. Early May.

The stamens pop open to reveal the yellow pollen. Bees, where are you? Early May.

A female selection of Salix sericea with one flower nearly mature and others less so.

Early May.

These are fully fertilized catkins and will soon open to release their seeds.

Mid May.


of Michael Dodge