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Downy Willow

Salix lapponum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
3 metres tall
Cliffs, gardens, mountains, rocky places.

White, no petals
Whitish catkins with yellow anthers. The catkins sometimes are reddish. 2 stamens.
The fruit is a capsule which contains the plumed seeds. The capsule is covered in dense but short hairs.
A very small, many-branched shrub covered with grey downy hairs. The twigs are hairless at first and then later become a reddish-brown colour with maturity. The wrinkly leaves are narrowly oval and downy beneath. They are silvery in colour and measure anything up to 7cm long and 2.5cm wide. Leaf stalks are anything up to 1cm long but usually much shorter.
Other Names:
Arctic Willow, Dwarf Willow, Lapland Willow.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Salix lapponum, also known as Lapland Willow, is a species of willow tree that is native to northern Europe and Asia, specifically in the Arctic and subarctic regions such as Lapland. It is a small to medium-sized tree that can grow up to 10 meters tall. The tree is known for its narrow leaves and its yellowish-brown bark. The bark of the tree contains salicin, which is used in the production of aspirin. Lapland willow is also used in traditional medicine for various ailments, including fever, pain, and inflammation. It is also used for erosion control, for its ability to stabilize banks and slopes, and for wildlife habitat. Due to its tolerance to cold temperatures, it can be used in landscaping and gardening in cold regions.


Downy Willow (Salix lapponum) is a species of willow native to northern parts of North America. It is commonly known as the Arctic Willow, Dwarf Willow, or Lapland Willow.

This shrub is a slow grower, typically reaching heights between 1 to 3 meters. Its leaves are typically around 5 cm long and are a shiny green color on the top, with a downy white underside. The bark of the Downy Willow is smooth and gray, with small buds near the base.

One of the unique characteristics of the Downy Willow is its ability to thrive in harsh, cold climates. It is found in tundra and arctic regions, where temperatures can drop to -40°C and winds can be very strong. This makes it a useful plant for landscaping in cold regions.

The Downy Willow is a important food source for many wildlife species, including moose, caribou, and ptarmigan. Its leaves, twigs, and buds are all edible and provide a source of nutrition when other food sources are scarce. Additionally, the shrub provides cover and habitat for many bird species.

In addition to its ecological importance, the Downy Willow has cultural significance to indigenous peoples in the northern regions where it grows. The bark and branches have been used for basketry and other crafts, and the plant has been used in traditional medicine for its medicinal properties.

The Downy Willow is a hardy species that is easy to care for and can be grown in a variety of soils and conditions. It prefers well-draining soils and full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. It is also a very low maintenance plant that does not require pruning or other care.

The Downy Willow is a unique and versatile plant that provides numerous benefits for both wildlife and humans. Whether you are looking for a low maintenance landscaping option or are interested in the ecology of northern regions, the Downy Willow is definitely worth considering.

The Downy Willow is also a valuable resource for hydrology and soil conservation. The dense network of roots helps to stabilize soils and prevent erosion, making it useful for mitigating the impacts of erosion and flooding. Additionally, the shrub helps to slow water flow and increase infiltration, helping to regulate water resources in cold, arid regions.

In the landscape, the Downy Willow can be used as an accent plant, a privacy screen, or a hedge. Its slow growth rate and small size make it a good choice for small gardens and rock gardens. It can also be planted in containers and used as a bonsai specimen.

When planting the Downy Willow, it is important to select a site that has good drainage and provides adequate sunlight. The shrub can be propagated from seeds or cuttings, and can be planted in the spring or fall. It is also a good idea to water the shrub regularly during its first growing season to help it establish roots.

Overall, the Downy Willow is a versatile and hardy plant that offers a range of benefits for wildlife and humans. Whether you are interested in its ecological importance, its cultural significance, or its practical uses in the landscape, the Downy Willow is a unique and valuable species that is worth exploring.

In addition to its practical uses, the Downy Willow has also been the subject of scientific research. Studies have investigated its potential for use in phytoremediation, or the use of plants to remove pollutants from contaminated soils. Researchers have found that the Downy Willow has a high tolerance for heavy metals and other pollutants, making it a potential tool for restoring contaminated sites.

In terms of conservation, the Downy Willow is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, the shrub is vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation, especially in regions where it is being impacted by climate change and other environmental pressures.

In conclusion, the Downy Willow is a fascinating and valuable species with a wide range of uses and benefits. From its ability to thrive in harsh climates, to its importance as a food source for wildlife, to its potential for use in phytoremediation and soil conservation, this shrub is a valuable part of the northern ecosystem that deserves our attention and appreciation.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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