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

Salix polaris Wahlenb.
polar willow
Salicaceae (Willow family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Hans Roemer  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #22999)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Salix polaris
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Species Information

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Dwarf shrubs, 1-9 cm tall, forming rhizomatous mats; branches erect, flexible at base, weakly to strongly glaucous; twigs brownish, smooth.
Alternate, simple, elliptic to egg-shaped or nearly circular, 0.5-3.2 cm long, 0.8-1.8 cm wide, lower surface not glaucous, smooth or hairy, hairs white; upper surface shiny, smooth, margins entire, bases and tips pointed to rounded; leaf stalks without glandular dots at top; stipules absent or rudimentary.
Unisexual, lacking sepals and petals, borne in catkins which flower as leaves emerge, the catkins stout, on leafy twigs; floral bracts dark, smooth or hairy, hairs straight or wavy; stamens 2; ovaries 1, hairy; styles 0.7-1.6 mm long.
Capsules which split open to release the seeds, each of which is surrounded by a tuft of hairs; stalks 0.2-0.7 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist late snowbed and snowflush areas and scree slopes in the upper subalpine and alpine zones; common in N BC; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Salix polaris

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) 5 1691 2440
Slope Gradient (%) 0 15 300
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 70 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
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: BAFA(280), ESSF(21), IMA(3), MH(1), SWB(13)


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 polaris subsp. pseudopolaris (Flod.) Hult╬śn
Salix polaris var. glabrata HultTn
Salix polaris var. selwynensis Raup
Salix pseudopolaris Flod.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References