categoryZTrees Trees List 
categoryZBroadleaf Broadleaf List 
categoryZDeciduous Deciduous List 

GREY WILLOW

GREY SALLOW

Salix cineria

Willow Family [Salicaceae]

month8apr month8april month8may

category
category8Trees
category
category8Broadleaf
category
category8Deciduous
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8grey
petals
petalsZ0
type
typeZcatkins
stem
stem8round
sex
sexZdioecious

Salix cinerea ssp. cinerea

MALE TREE

5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Usually a large shrub at up to 6m, but can be a taller tree up to 15m). Usually shorter than is Goat Willow. Here in its winter plumage (no leaves) but with flowers growing, male flowers this specimen.


5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The bark of a young tree is worse than its bite...


5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Young twigs are thickly downy. This one also showing the young male catkins where a mass of fine grey silky hairs are hiding the developing stamens, which will later have many long white filaments protruding bearing tiny yellow anthers just like the slightly larger ones of Goat Willow.


5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The flowers start later than the similar flowers of Goat Willow, but are slightly smaller.


5th April 2018, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Fine silky-soft white and grey hairs at first plaster the male flowers.


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The leaves are smaller than those of Goat Willow, about 3 to 4 times longer than broad, with a pointed end. (ssp. cinerea)


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The leaves ar 2-9 cm long (16cm limit), and 1-3cm broad (5cm limit). (ssp. cinerea)


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Leaves subglabrous or just sparsely hairy on the upper side. (ssp. cinerea)


19th Aug 2017, Brighton le Sands, Blundellsands, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 On the underside the leaves are hairy to densely-hairy. (ssp. cinerea)


8th April 2017, Carr Mill Dam resr, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
Sex unknown. Beneath the bark of the 2-year old twigs of Grey Willow are longitudinal ridges like the one seen here, an identifying feature.


8th April 2017, Carr Mill Dam resr, St Helens, Merseyside Photo: © RWD
Sex unknown. The trunk of a mature specimen, beside water.


Salix cinerea ssp. cinerea

FEMALE TREE

3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Whereas the young female catkin starts ot very much like the male one, but has hints of green beneath the mass of white hairs (whereas young male catkins have hints of grey amidst them - see above).


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 From afar the tree in the month of May might look as though it is plastered in pale-green leaves, but most of these are female catkins; only a few are bright-green leaves.


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The catkins are erect rather than dangling like proper catkins.


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 There are many ovaries on the catkins.


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Each ovary is pale-green because of short white hairs around either all or part of each one. Notice the bright-green leaves, not yet fully grown.


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Each ovary is tipped by a very short green style and the (now-brown) stigma(s).


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Most of the hairs around the ovaries are appressed and directed towards the style. There are some hairs which are not appressed near the bases of the stigmas. The ovaries are fattest just above their base, and taper to the extremely short style before that is capped by the stigma(s) which are now brown.


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 


3rd May 2017, Enclosed Parks, Crosby, Sefton Coast. 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 their silky hairy buds in early spring.

Easily mistaken for Goat Willow (Salix caprea) (which also has 2 sub-species as does Grey 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 softly-furry 'pussies' are slightly larger on Goat 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.

It is native and a shrub or small tree growing to 6m high (15m max), thus usually smaller than the similar Goat Willow which is 10m high, 19m maximum.

Grey Willow exists as two sub-species:

  • Salix cinerea ssp. cinerea (which is much less abundant and mainly occupies fens in a triangle between Burton on Trent at the centre, with Hull at the northern limit and Gravesend at the southern limit. Although in the last 10-15 years it seems to have departed from most of Norfolk and since the turn of the Century from most of Northern Ireland, it has however been spreading very slowly in apparently random isolated spots randomly throughout the UK since 2010). This species is usually persistently hairy. The leaves are dull and hairy (or not) on the upper surface and densely hairy on the underside. Leaf shape is mostly oblong or obovate. At low altitudes this species is found on marshes and fens.
  • Salix cinerea ssp. oleifolia which is much the most widespread throughout the UK. The twigs become glabrous (hairless) as they grow. The leaves are mostly narrow-obovate or oblong and less glossy than those of ssp. cinerea and nearly glabrous on the upper surface. On the underside the leaves have grey hairs and some stiffer rust-coloured hairs along the veins. This sub-species is sometimes known as Rusty Willow for that reason. It is found in wet places, woods, both lowlands and uplands. It is the commonest species of Willow in the lowlands.

Hybridizes with :

  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea) to produce Salix × reichardtii
  • Goat Willow (Salix caprea) + Creeping Willow (Salix repens) to produce Salix × permixta
  • Eared Willow (Salix aurita) to produce Salix × multinervis
  • Eared Willow (Salix aurita) + Dock-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinifolia) to produce Salix × forbesiana
  • Dock-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinifolia) to produce Salix × strepida
  • Dock-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinifolia) + Dock-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinifolia) to produce Salix × phylicifolia
  • Creeping Willow (Salix repens) to produce Salix × subsericea


  Salix cineria  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Salicaceae  

Distribution
 family8Willow family8Salicaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Salix
Salix
(Willows)

GREY WILLOW

GREY SALLOW

Salix cineria

Willow Family [Salicaceae]