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Dioecious shrubs or trees, 0.6-8 m tall, not colonial; branches erect, flexible at base; twigs yellow- to red-brown, smooth or densely hairy.
Alternate, simple, elliptic to lance- or broadly egg-shaped, 3.6-11 cm long, 2-6.3 cm wide, lower surface glaucous, long soft-hairy or short-woolly to shaggy-hairy, sometimes nearly smooth, hairs white and rust-coloured, upper surface highly glossy, long soft-hairy to nearly smooth, margins entire to toothed, bases and tips pointed to rounded; leaf stalks without glandular dots at top; stipules absent, rudimentary, or leaflike on vigorous shoots.
Unisexual, lacking sepals and petals, borne in catkins which flower as leaves emerge or before them, the catkins stout, unstalked; floral bracts dark, hairs straight or wavy; stamens 2; ovaries 1, smooth or hairy; styles 0.6-2.3 mm long.
Capsules which split open to release the seeds, each of which is surrounded by a tuft of hairs; stalks 0.5-2 mm long.
The ovaries of this species may be smooth or hairy. The latter condition is more common in BC. The phase of the species with smooth ovaries, nearly smooth leaves and prominent stipules is sometimes named S. piperi Bebb.
Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia