E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Salix alba L.
white willow
Salicaceae (Willow family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #4033)

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Distribution of Salix alba
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Salix alba var. vitellina

Species Information

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Dioecious trees, 10-25 m tall, not colonial; branches erect, flexible or somewhat brittle at base; twigs grey- to red-brown, or golden-yellow, densely hairy.
Alternate, simple; narrowly oblong to lance-shaped, 6-12 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, lower surface glaucous, silky to nearly smooth, hairs white, upper surface dull, silky to nearly smooth, margins toothed, base pointed to wedge-shaped, tips pointed to tapering; leaf stalks with glandular dots or lobes at top; stipules leaflike.
Unisexual, lacking sepals and petals, borne in catkins which flower as leaves emerge, the catkins slender, on leafy twigs; floral bracts pale, hairs straight, female bracts deciduous; stamens 2; ovaries 1, smooth; styles 0.16-0.44 mm long.
Capsules which split open to release the seeds, each of which is surrounded by a tuft of hairs; stalks 0.2-0.8 mm long.
Cultivated throughout North America. The most commonly cultivated form of this species, with golden-yellow, erect twigs, is S. alba var. vitellina (L.) Stokes. Plants with golden-yellow, weeping twigs are the hybrid S. x sepulcralis Simonk nothovar. chrysocoma (Dode) Meikle. Pure S. babylonica L. does not occur in BC. Reports of that species are based on S. x sepulcralis Simonk (S. alba x S. babylonica) or S. x pendulina Wenderoth (Salix babylonica x S. fragilis L.). The hybrid with S. fragilis (S. x rubens) is widely cultivated and naturalized in BC. See that hybrid for further comments.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: White
Present over the Spring
According to the USDA, this species is a known allelopath.
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to wet, usually riverine habitats; infrequent in S BC; introduced from Europe.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Salix alba

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 1323 1323 1323
Slope Gradient (%) 1 1 1
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
208 208 208
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
7 7 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: IDF(1)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Salix alba subsp. caerulea (Sm.) Rech. f.
Salix alba subsp. vitellina (L.) Arcang.
Salix alba var. caerulea (Sm.) Sm.
Salix alba var. calva G.F.W. Mey.
Salix alba var. vitellina (L.) Stokes
Salix vitellina L.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

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General References