Salix repens L.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Salix repens' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-07-17.


Common Names

  • Creeping Willow


Lowest part of the carpel containing the ovules; later developing into the fruit.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
Lance-shaped; broadest in middle tapering to point.
Egg-shaped solid.
Lacking a stem or stalk.
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.
(subsp.) Taxonomic rank for a group of organisms showing the principal characters of a species but with significant definable morphological differentiation. A subspecies occurs in populations that can occupy a distinct geographical range or habitat.
(syn.) (botanical) An alternative or former name for a taxon usually considered to be invalid (often given in brackets). Synonyms arise when a taxon has been described more than once (the prior name usually being the one accepted as correct) or if an article of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature has been contravened requiring the publishing of a new name. Developments in taxonomic thought may be reflected in an increasing list of synonyms as generic or specific concepts change over time.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Salix repens' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-07-17.

A low shrub of variable habit, often only 1 to 112 ft high in the wild, but sometimes 6 or 8 ft high in gardens; spreading by means of creeping or underground stems from which spring upright branches; young shoots silky. Leaves oblong or oval to lanceolate; normally 14 to 34 in. long and 18 to 13 in. wide, but in cultivation twice those dimensions; tapered about equally at both ends or more gradually towards the apex; glistening and silvery beneath, with a dense covering of silky hairs; dull or greyish green and more or less silky above, but sometimes glabrous, especially late in the season; stalk 112 to 16 in. long. Catkins produced on the naked shoots in April and May, sessile, ovoid to oblong, rarely more than 34 in. long; scales usually dark at the apex, hairy. Anthers yellow. Ovary usually glabrous, long-stalked; style and stigmas variable.

S. repens in its typical state is fairly widespread in Europe (including the British Isles), especially on wet heaths and moorlands, and extends into Siberia and Central Asia. Even in its typical state it is variable, and not clearly demarcated from the subsp. argentea. But it is easily distinguished among the smaller-leaved willows by its creeping root-stock and the silvery under-surface of the leaves. The subsp. argentea is more ornamental, and commoner in gardens, but there is a dense-habited, sturdy form of typical S. repens with leaves about 38 in. long by 18 in. broad, glabrous and rather glossy on the upper surface, very glaucous beneath, that makes a neat bush for the rock garden.

subsp. argentea (Sm.) E. A. & G. Camus S. argentea Sm.; S. arenaria L.; S. repens var. argentea (Sm.) Wimm. & Grab.; S. repens var. nitida Wenderoth – A larger, more erect, stoutly branched shrub. Leaves relatively broader, tending to obovate, those on strong shoots up to 178 in. long and 1 in. wide, usually permanently silky above. Ovary usually hairy.

In contrast to typical S. repens, this subspecies is in the main coastal in distribution, inhabiting fixed sand-dunes from the Atlantic coasts of Europe to the North Sea and the Baltic, but extends some way inland in Germany, and is also found on some rocky heaths in N. Scotland.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

var. fusca – Meikle remarks that although this is a fairly distinct variant, it is scarcely the S. fusca of Linnaeus. The author citation should accordingly be var. fusca Wimm. & Grab., and the synonym deleted.

'Sericea Pendula'

Leaves silky above and beneath, closely set on the shoot. Female. It is laxly branched and was at one time top-grafted, making a very pretty weeping tree, but not long-lived. Some plants now grown as S. repens argentea probably belong to this clone, which is evidently an old one, judging from specimens in the Kew Herbarium.

var. fusca (L.) Wimm. & Grab.

S. fusca L

A minor variation of typical S. repens with a short root-stock and erect stems. It occurs in fens.


A prostrate selection of neat and compact habit, with small, greenish grey leaves. Of Dutch origin.


Although probably not naturally weeping, this was at one time sold as a weeping tree. The leaves are much larger than in ‘Sericea Pendula’, roundish, sparsely silky beneath. It was in cultivation as early as 1877 and used to be sold by several nurserymen.S. × ambigua Ehrh. S. repens × S. aurita. – A fairly frequent natural hybrid, recorded from many parts of the British Isles, but of no horticultural interest. The influence of S. aurita is usually to be seen in the more erect growth and persistent stipules, and of S. repens in the silvery undersides of the leaves.Hybrids of S. repens with S. caprea and S. cinerea also occur, though more rarely. For another hybrid of S. repens see S. × doniana.S. rosmarinifolia L. S. sibirica Pall.; S. repens var. rosmarinifolia (L.) Wimm. & Grab.; S. repens subsp. rosmarinifolia (L.) Celak. – Branchlets slender, sparsely hairy. Leaves narrow-lanceolate, long-tapered to a sharp apex, more abruptly to the base, silky beneath, entire or almost so, lateral veins in ten to twelve pairs. Stipules small or wanting. Catkins globose. Ovary hairy. Native of eastern Central Europe northwards to S. Sweden. Not to be confused with the willow once commonly known as S. rosmarinifolia in gardens, which is S. elaeagnos, a species which has the leaves white-woolly beneath, not silky, and differs in many other characters. See also S. × friesiana.Salix rosmarinifolia has been confused with the following hybrid:S. × friesiana Anderss. S. rosmarinifolia of some authors, not L. S. repens × S. viminalis – This hybrid occurs occasionally in the wild and was raised artificially by the Rev. E. F. Linton. It differs from S. rosmarinifolia in the relatively broader, usually lanceolate, leaves, more persistently silky beneath, the ovoid, more silky male catkins and the linear-oblong nectaries (in S. rosmarinifolia, as in S. repens, the nectaries are very short, ovate, with an obtuse or truncate apex).S. subopposita Miq. S. repens var. subopposita (Miq.) Seem.; S. sibirica var. subopposita (Miq.) Schneid. – A close ally of S. rosmarinifolia, but with the branchlets and buds more persistently hairy, and the leaves more densely silky when young; also in the more pronounced stipules. The specific epithet refers to the arrangement of the leaves, many of which are almost opposite. In the cultivated clone (male) the leaves are very closely arranged on the branchlet (five or even six to the inch); the stipules are ovate, with an oblique base, often stalked. Catkins ovoid, about {1/2} in. long, opening well before the leaves. Native mainly of Japan.