Salix alba L.

White Willow

A fast-growing deciduous tree 15-20 m tall, broad-crowned, with ascending branches and an open habit. Bark furrowed with age. Young shoots often silky hairy at first, sometimes becoming an attractive yellow in winter, contrasting with the dark red winter buds. Leaves narrowly lanceolate to oblanceolate, mostly less than 8 cm long, rarely to 12 cm long, 2-2.5 cm wide, finely toothed with a prominent yellow midrib below, sometimes shiny green above at first but becoming dull, generally silky-hairy and waxy blue below at least at first, changing to bright yellow in autumn. Leaf stalk mostly less than 5 mm long, grooved above and expanded at the base. Catkins appearing with the leaves mostly Sept.-Oct.

Europe, W Asia

The identification of the White Willow is complicated by the inter­grading of subspecies and hybridisation with S. fragilis (these hybrids refer­rable to S. ×rubens).

New foliage silky at first and hairs remaining on at least one surface at maturity.


var. alba  White Willow  Leaves generally with silky hair at first that persists, though diminishing, on the lower surface. Twigs mostly greenish to brown.

Naturalised in SA, NSW, Vic and Tas.


var. caerulea (Sm.) Sm.  Cricket Bat Willow  The leaves of this variety are generally larger than the typical variety, being 10-11 cm long and 1.5-2 cm wide with silky hairs below that are soon shed to reveal the slightly blue colouration, the margins are often conspicuously toothed. Only female clones are grown. [S. alba var. calva Mey.]

Not recorded as naturalised.

Grown commercially in the British Isles and said to be the original source of the cricket bat willow wood, harvested from a clone grown near Norwich, Suffolk since 1774. A few trees of this variety remain from a plantation at Shepherd's Flat near Daylesford, Victoria, a former source of timber for cricket bats. The company Callen Cricket Bats is establishing plantations near Yarra Glen, Victoria.


var. vitellina (L.)  Stokes Golden Willow  Branches erect or ascending, the twigs conspicuously orange-yellow in winter, less so at other times; leaves silky-hairy below. Plants are mostly female.

Europe, W Asia, N Africa

Naturalised in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Sometimes confused with S. ×sepulcralis var. chrysocoma (a hybrid between S. alba var. vitellina and S. babylonica) which has strongly pendent branches, twigs that are thin and golden or greenish yellow, and leaves that are silky at first but soon more or less hairless below and catkins on stalks mostly more than 2 cm long. A specimen of the latter may be seen at The University of Melbourne, Burnley Campus; planted 1947 and about 12 m tall in 1990.

ACT: Red Hill (Monaro Court near Flinders Way). VIC: Ballarat (Lake Wendouree).

Source: Spencer, R. (1997). Salicaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Salix alba 'Britzensis'

Scarlet Willow has bright red or reed-orange new shoots and is generally coppiced to show these to best effect. Raised from seed in Britz, Germany.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Rosanae
order      Malpighiales
family       Salicaceae
genus        Salix L.