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The Wonderful World of Willows

Vermont Willow Nursery

Salix serissima

serissima =  latest

Autumn Willow

Although this is reported to occur in Vermont, it hasn't been found here in the wild for many years. So now it is here—out of state friends graciously shared cuttings with us and it turns out that what have flowered are female. We hoped for both so we could establish a colony on our property! We do have the male selection now and seeds are produced yearly now.

This shrub can grow to 12ft and has branchlets that are green at first, turn olive-brown, then reddish in late summer-early fall. Leaves are large shiny, rich green with serrated edges and short-pointed (not long pointed as fellow native S. lucida). At the base of each leaf where it meets the petiole glands are situated. At the base of the leaf where it meets the stem stipules may be present or absent. Catkins appear with the leaves in spring and the fertilized females remain green and do not open until autumn—hence it's colloquial name. The amazing thing about this is that willow seed is normally very short-lived (3-4 days at best), however the seedlings of serrissima don't germinate until Spring. This habit has caused some confusion as it was thought by some to be a fall flowering Willow! Flower buds appear in late summer, green at first, they gradually turn red; they are flattened at the pointed tip. Female catkins are 1–2in long and although we have not seen a male flower, they are about the same size.

USES: as an ornamental shrub with it's very attractive shiny leaves and curious flower habits.

$14.50 per bundle of 5


Distribution of Salix serissima in the US

Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP



Present in County

Present in State

Present but rare

A fully ripe female catkin with ovaries ready to open like those behind it. Late August.

Fully open ovaries with masses of fluff that hold the tiny seed and blows away in a strong wind. Seeds don't germinate until Spring, a phenomenon not known in other species!

Stems with and without stipules; at right, serrated edges of the leaves are clearly visible.

Mid September.

In late September, the flower buds are clearly visible and stipules are present.

Look carefully at the upper part of the petiole and you will see spiky glands.

Reddish stems in this particular plant.

The leaves in the background at top-right are those of S. lucida with long-tapered leaf tips.

Green stems on these shoots. This has lots to do with the amount of sun they receive.

Late August.

All photographs were taken in the nursery.

On May 4th, 2017 our first flower appeared on a male selection in the nursery that I collected in a swamp with George Argus. It's the latest flowering of any willow in our collection except a Chinese Fall-flowering species: Salix variegata, also called Salix bockii from the three Gorges region growing in sandy gravel on the rivers edges.

Above and right are male catkins on their short growths, therefore these are not pussy willows.

These are older catkins than the yellow one above these two.

not available at this time