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Salix alba var. sericea

(syn. S. alba var. argentea)

alba = white, sericea = silky  

Silver Willow

A natural variety of the White Willow with beautiful silver foliage that comes from the silky, silver hairs on both sides of the leaves. One of the most beautiful of all trees. Driving around England in late September 2012 this silver beauty was the outstanding deciduous tree as all others were a fairly uniform green. Around Burlington VT there are many naturalized plants of this selection, plus some that have hybridized with S. xfragilis and have differing degrees of silver hairs. Our cuttings came indirectly from English plants and have very silver leaves. Grows best in full sun and average to moist soils. As with all trees do not plant near drainage pipes/septic systems. Hardy to Zone 3.


USES: medium-sized ornamental tree; can be pollarded to keep the tree to a manageable size or coppiced to produce lots of great twigs for supporting perennials, climbing annuals, including veggies; also useful in summer flower arrangements.

Silver Willow pollarded to maintain the tree to a manageable size.

Photographed in the enchanting North Hill Gardens of Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd in Southern Vermont. Above and below.

Silver Willow is difficult to photograph because the camera sees the underlying green of the leaves  

through the hairs, whereas the human eye sees silver!

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Two forms of what are probably S. alba var. sericea >

At left is a very erect specimen in the charming New Brunswick Botanic Garden near Edmunston NB; at right is a noble specimen in Vermont behind a construction depot.

The Wonderful World of Willows

Vermont Willow Nursery

$12.50 per bundle of 5

Female catkins on the trees below.

Male catkins on a plant in the nursery. At center is a bee with pollen covered legs.

Below are the trunks of the Silky White Willow.

This was probably a single plant coppiced at a young age and four stems allowed to develop in trunks.

Below and below right are specimens in the Arboretum of the Canadian Experimental Farm in Ottawa, Canada.

I'd guess that the young tree is 10-15 years old.

A black squirrel hanging out in one of the above trees.

Willows respond very well to coppicing and this can be done on a single trunk, or multiple stem, as above. It's a good way to keep a willow from growing too tall. If it's done in late winter you will only have to live with the look a short time.

A young plant in the nursery with the wind turning over the leaves to show the silvery-white undersides.