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An erect, many-stemmed shrub, rarely a small tree; young branches reddish brown in their first winter; winter-buds bright red. Leaves very thin and purple-tinged when young, balsam-scented, ovate or oblong-lanceolate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, dark green above, paler and reticulate beneath, glabrous, margins finely glandular-serrate; petiole slender, up to 5⁄8 in. long. Stipules wanting, or small and soon falling. Catkins on short leafy peduncles or almost sessile, male 7⁄8 to 13⁄4 in. long, dense, female more slender, elongating to 3 in. in fruit; scales densely long-hairy, oblong, pale yellow. Ovary glabrous, slenderly stalked; stigmas almost sessile.
Native of N. America from Labrador to the Rocky Mountains, south to New York, Michigan and South Dakota. An interesting willow, allied to the section Cordatae but usually placed in a monotypic section – Balsamiferae. It is ornamental in winter, with its reddish young branches and bright red buds.