categoryZTrees Trees List 
categoryZBroadleaf Broadleaf List 
categoryZDeciduous Deciduous List 

GOAT WILLOW

COMMON SALLOW

Salix caprea

Willow Family [Salicaceae]

month8apr month8april month8may

category
category8Trees
category
category8Broadleaf
category
category8Deciduous
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8green
 
petals
petalsZ0
 
type
typeZcatkins
 
stem
stem8round
 
rarity
rarityZscarce
(ssp. sphacelata)
sex
sexZdioecious
 

MALE TREE

5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 In its winter coat resplendent with small male catkins


5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
  The twigs of Goat Willow are either sparsely hairy to hairy at first but become glabrous (hairless) and either glossy or dull.

There are 2 sub-species of Goat Willow: ssp. caprea (where the twigs rapidly become hairless) and ssp. sphacelata (where the twigs remain hairy for longer).



5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Early in the year at this stage Goat Willow is commonly called 'Pussy Willow' because the silky-grey buds bear a passing resemblance to cat's paws, but this is also said for other Willows which exhibit this characteristic, especially Grey Willow.


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaves on ssp. caprea are larger at 5-12 cm long and 2.5 - 8cm wide than those on ssp. sphacelate at 3 - 7cm long and 1.5 - 4.5cm wide. The former also have leaves which are densely hairy on the underside and sparsely hairy to sub-glabrous on the upper surface and with edges irregularly undulate-serrate, whereas those of ssp. sphacelate are densely appressed hairy on the underside and have edges which are between entire (without teeth or undulations) to slightly serrate. Take your pick from the above photos...


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
It looks like the tree at Brighton-le-sands depicted on this page has densely appressed hairs on the underside and edges which are between entire (without teeth or undulations) to slightly serrate and is thus ssp. sphacelate (?).


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


8th April 2017, Sankey Valley Park, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 


8th April 2017, Sankey Valley Park, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
  After the initial smaller dense white-haired catkins the male flowers grow larger and display a profusion of long narrow white filaments with small cream-coloured anthers at the tip.


8th April 2017, Sankey Valley Park, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 


8th April 2017, Sankey Valley Park, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
  Twigs still hairy on this specimen at Sankey Valley Park, so it could be ssp. sphacelata (?).


FEMALE TREE

8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 Female tree. Goat Willow is a dioecious shrub or small tree which reaches heights of just 10m (up tp 19m). The leaves appear a little later in the year, the pale green parts are female catkins.


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
  The female catkins are longer than male flowers when opened and are pale-green rather than cream coloured.


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 Female catkins are longer than the male flowers and more tubular in outline.


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 The styles are long conical and pale-green in colour tipped by three small pale-yellow stigmas. The styles are variously surrounded by a cloak of dense white hairs.


8th April 2017, Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
 


Not to be semantically confused with : Goat's-Rue (Galega officinalis), Goat's-beard (Tragopogon pratensis) or Goat Pea (Securigera securidaca), [plants with similar names belonging to differing families]

Grey Willow and Goat Willow collectively are known as 'Pussy Willow' because of the silkily hairy buds in early spring.

Easily mistaken for Grey Willow (Salix cinerea) (which also has 2 sub-species as does Goat Willow), the differences being:

  • If the bark is peeled off 2-year-old twigs, then the exposed surface is ridged on Grey Willow (but smooth on Goat Willow)
  • The bark of Grey Willow grows darker and has shallower ridges than that of Goat Willow
  • The leaves of Grey Willow are usually much smaller and between 2 to 3 times as long as broad and broadest beyond halfway to the tip
  • Grey Willow (the much more common ssp. oliifolia sub-species - which is sometimes known as Rusty Willow) has fine felty hairs on the underside of the leaves and rusty-looking hairs along the veins on the underside of the leaf (whereas Goat Willow does not)
  • The flowers on Grey Willow also start later than those of Goat Willow.
  • The 'pussies' are slightly smaller on Grey Willow
  • Grey Willow is much less often found away from damp areas than is Goat Willow.
But, the hybrid of Grey Willow with Goat Willow is common.

Hybridizes with :

  • Grey Willow (Salix cinerea) to produce Salix × reichardtii
  • Grey Willow (Salix cinerea) + Creeping Willow (Salix repens) to produce Salix × permixta
  • Eared Willow (Salix aurita) to produce Salix × capreola
  • Dock-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinifolia) to produce Salix × latifolia
  • Dock-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinifolia) + Tea-leaved Willow (Salix phylicifolia) to produce Salix × meikleana
  • Tea-leaved Willow (Salix phylicifolia) to produce a nameless hybrid
  • Creeping Willow (Salix repens) to produce Salix × laschiana
  • Downy Willow (Salix lapponum) to produce Salix × canescens
  • Whortle-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinites) to produce Salix × lintonii

Goat Willow exists as two sub-species:

  • Salix caprea ssp. caprea where the twigs quickly become hairless. The leaves are larger at 5-12cm long by 2.5-8cm broad, irregularly undulate to serrate on the edge and densely hairy on underside but sub-glabrous to sparsely hairy on upper surface. Much more abundant than ssp. spacelata and is locally common to abundant throughout the UK. It grows in hedges and open woodland; also on damp and rough ground.
  • Salix caprea ssp. spacelata Both twigs and leaves remain hairy for longer than ssp. caprea. Leaves smaller at 3-7cm long by 1.5-4.5cm wide, which are densely appressed-hairy on underside; the edges being entire (without teeth or wiggles) to obscurely serrate. Much less presence than ssp. caprea. Occupies damp ground on the mountains of Scotland.


  Salix caprea  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Salicaceae  

Distribution
 family8Willow family8Salicaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Salix
Salix
(Willows)

GOAT WILLOW

COMMON SALLOW

Salix caprea

Willow Family [Salicaceae]