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A shrub of 6 ft or more high, with slender twigs which are slightly silky when young, soon becoming glabrous, and, later on, deep purple. Leaves narrowly lanceolate, tapered at both ends, finely and regularly toothed, 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. wide, sometimes broader on strong shoots, silky only when quite young, soon glabrous, bluish beneath; petiole 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long. Stipules, when present, soon deciduous. Catkins appearing in spring on short leafy peduncles, at first under 1 in. long in both sexes, the female elongating in fruit, truncate at the apex; scales narrow, acute or truncate, brownish or yellow, sparsely hairy. Ovary conoid, stalked, long-tapered at the apex; stigmas sessile.
Native of N. America from Quebec to Alberta, south to New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota. A valuable basket-willow, cultivated as such in some parts of Europe. It was described by Sir James Smith in 1802 from a female plant in the Crowe collection, received from a Mr Dickson (who had forgotten its origin), and was for a short while believed to be a British native. Smith’s description of the foliage must have been made from a strong shoot, since an authentic specimen, given by him to William Borrer of Henfield, has narrower leaves than those originally described. There seems to be no ground for following those authorities who have rejected the name S. petiolaris in favour of the later S. gracilis.
The species is variable in foliage; there are forms with very elegant short and narrow leaves.