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Olive Willow

Salix eleagnos

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
15 metres tall
Ditches, gardens, riversides.

Green, no petals
Green catkins, up to 6cm long. Yellow anthers.
The catkins develop into seed capsules.
Very narrow, silvery or greyish-green, simple, toothed leaves. Up to 20cm long. The twigs are yellowish red.
Other Names:
Bitter Willow, Elaeagnus Willow, Hoary Willow, Narrow-leaved Olive Willow, Narrow-leaved Rosemary Willow, Olive-leaf Rosemary, Olive-leaved Willow, Rosemary Willow.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Salix eleagnos, also known as the Olive-leaved Willow, is a species of willow tree that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 15 meters tall. The tree is known for its olive-shaped leaves and its yellowish-brown bark. The bark of the tree contains salicin, which is used in the production of aspirin. Olive-leaved willow is also used in traditional medicine for various ailments, including fever, pain, and inflammation. It is also a popular ornamental tree, grown for its attractive leaves and bark. It is also used for erosion control, for its ability to stabilize banks and slopes, and for wildlife habitat. It is also used for basketry, for making furniture and for firewood.


Olive Willow (Salix eleagnos) is a type of willow tree that is native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. The tree is known for its unique characteristics, including its silver-grey leaves that are covered with small, silvery hairs. The olive willow is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of 10-15 meters, with a slender trunk and a rounded canopy.

One of the most notable features of the olive willow is its bark. The bark is a rich, chocolate brown color and is covered with a thick, corky layer that provides excellent insulation for the tree. This layer of bark helps to protect the tree from damage from cold temperatures, wind, and insects.

The olive willow is a hardy tree that can tolerate a variety of growing conditions, including dry and wet soils, and is able to thrive in areas with a Mediterranean climate. The tree is also able to withstand salty conditions and is often found growing near the coast.

The olive willow is an important tree for wildlife. It provides food and habitat for a variety of species, including birds, small mammals, and insects. The tree is also important for erosion control and is often used in reforestation projects.

The olive willow is a unique and valuable tree that is an important part of the natural landscape. Whether you are an avid gardener or simply enjoy observing the beauty of nature, the olive willow is a tree worth learning more about. If you are interested in planting an olive willow, be sure to select a location that is suitable for its growing conditions and give it the care and attention it needs to thrive.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, the olive willow has several practical uses. The tree's branches and twigs have been used for centuries to make baskets, brooms, and other household items. The bark of the tree has been used in traditional medicine as a remedy for various ailments, including respiratory and digestive issues.

The wood of the olive willow is also valuable. It is light, soft, and flexible, making it ideal for a variety of applications, including the manufacture of paper, furniture, and fuel. The wood is also used for carving and is considered to be an excellent material for sculpting.

It's important to note that the olive willow is also susceptible to certain pests and diseases. One of the most common pests is the willow leaf beetle, which feeds on the tree's leaves and can cause significant damage. Willow scab, a fungal disease, can also impact the tree's health and reduce its vigor.

Despite these challenges, the olive willow is a resilient and adaptable tree that is well-suited to many different environments. With proper care and maintenance, the olive willow can thrive for many years, providing shade, beauty, and a range of benefits to the surrounding ecosystem.

In conclusion, the olive willow is a fascinating tree with a rich history and a range of practical and ornamental uses. Whether you are looking to plant a tree for its aesthetic appeal, its ecological value, or its practical benefits, the olive willow is an excellent choice.

Another aspect to consider is the olive willow's role in traditional cultural practices and beliefs. In many cultures, the willow tree has been associated with fertility, renewal, and healing. It was often used in rituals and ceremonies to mark important events, such as the start of spring and the beginning of new growth.

The olive willow's bark and leaves have also been used in various forms of traditional medicine. The bark was often brewed into a tea to treat digestive and respiratory problems, while the leaves were used to soothe skin irritations and wounds. Some communities have even used the twigs of the willow tree to make wands or other tools that were believed to have healing powers.

In modern times, the olive willow continues to be an important tree for many people. Whether it is valued for its ornamental beauty, its ecological role, its practical uses, or its cultural significance, the olive willow is a tree that is worth appreciating and preserving.

Conservation efforts are important to maintain the health of olive willow populations, as well as the health of other willow species. In some areas, the tree is threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, and other human activities. By planting more olive willows and preserving existing populations, we can help ensure that this valuable species continues to thrive for generations to come.

In conclusion, the olive willow is a fascinating tree with a rich history and a range of benefits for people, wildlife, and the environment. Whether you are interested in learning about its cultural significance, its practical uses, or its ecological importance, the olive willow is a tree that is worth exploring and appreciating.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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