Salix gmelinii

(formerly listed as S. x dasyclados)

gmelin = after a German botanist

Hairy Willow

(in Chinese = hair willow branch)

This Asian species is found along stream-sides, riverbanks and lake-shores in northeastern China, Mongolia, eastern Russia and Japan. It was introduced into Europe and was thought to be a triple hybrid and named S. xdasyclados. Russian taxonomists disagreed with this assumption as S. gmelinii is quite variable. Unfortunately these corrections don't always reach Public Gardens and Nurserymen. The Russian taxonomist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England corrected me on this! It is a vigorous grower and becomes a large shrub or small tree 10-20ft, but better coppiced for the very attractive rods. The thick stems are densely white villous at first (hence the Chinese common name), turning a warm brown as they mature. The showy 2-3in catkins appear before the leaves; ours are a female selection. Grows well in almost any soil, but is more vigorous with good fertility; will tolerate standing water for short periods. Hardy to Zone 4.

USES: produces high quality rods 6-7ft if coppiced yearly; useful for baskets, furniture and fedges. It is used for biomass production.

villous = covered with dense woolly hairs

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below: female catkins in various stages of development. Late March to late April

Female catkins developing along the warm brown stems with silvery vegetative buds bursting a little later.

Fully developed female catkins,

probably had 6-legged visitors earlier!

In Spring warm brown stems with silvery vegetative buds bursting out of their red bud scales. Late April.

Coppicing has started on this plant. The length of the stubs left on the plant are perfect for getting a few very strong shoots with very few thin, weak ones! Longer stubs mean more weak stems! Warm green stems turn brown as they mature. Early April.

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As you can see, S. gmelinii produces lots and lots of female catkins;

that means lots and lots of nectar and lots and lots of happy bees! late April

A typical female willow catkin: at the bottom is the overwintering bud-scale; above that hairy flower scales; the "spikes" are the densely hairy naughty bits—ovary, style (stem) and green bifurcate (forked) stigma. No modesty in flowers! No wonder Salix are promiscuous!

Leaves start to develop as soon as the catkins mature.

above and below: New growth on the stems is furry (tomentose) and disappears in summer.

Leaves are dark green at first with a prominent white midrib and stipules at the base of the leaves.

(below Internet photo)

Foliage turns paler green during the summer and these weaker side-shoots never amount to much and snap off easily when using the rod for structures. Mid May.

Catkin buds are developing in the axils of the leaves They will continue to swell until cold weather sets in. Late September.

Late September and the leaves are still bright green.

Leaves are reticulate (netted) on the upper surface.

Late September.

The undersides of the leaves are pale grayish-green and covered in short fine hairs.

Catkins opening in mid April.

These are vegetative buds for comparison in late September.