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Whortle-leaved Willow

Salix myrsinites

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Plant Profile

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

Silver, no petals
The silvery catkins are woolly in appearance and they appear erect on long, leafy stalks. The male catkins (up to 2cm long) are smaller than the females and have dark red or purple anthers.
The fruit is a capsule, containing many seeds.
A deciduous, low-growing, dense shrub with pointed, oval but variable leaves. The leaves are dark green and glossy with finely toothed margins. The veins on the undersides of the leaves are prominent. Reddish-brown twigs.
Other Names:
Dark-leaved Willow, Low Blueberry Willow, Myrtle Leaf Willow, Myrtle Willow, Myrtle-leaved Willow, Purple Willow.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Salix myrsinites is a species of willow that is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is also known as dark-leaved willow, myrtle-leaved willow, or purple willow. It is a small shrub or tree that can reach a height of up to 3 meters. The leaves are dark green, glossy and lance-shaped, and are slightly hairy underneath. The flowers are small and yellow, and appear in catkins in early spring before the leaves. This species is commonly used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes, and also for erosion control and as a windbreak. It is also known to have a high tolerance to salty soils and coastal conditions.


The Whortle-leaved Willow (Salix myrsinites) is a species of willow tree that is native to North America and Europe. It is also commonly known as the Myrtle-leaved Willow, and is a deciduous shrub or small tree that grows to a height of up to 10 meters.

One of the key features of the Whortle-leaved Willow is its distinctive leaves. Unlike many other willows, which have long, narrow leaves, the Whortle-leaved Willow has round, glossy green leaves that resemble those of myrtle plants. These leaves are about 3 to 5 centimeters in diameter and are covered in a thick layer of fine, downy hairs, which gives them a soft, velvety appearance.

In addition to its distinctive leaves, the Whortle-leaved Willow is also notable for its long, slender branches and smooth, silver-grey bark. These branches are often covered in small, yellowish-green flowers that bloom in the spring and are a popular food source for many species of pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

The Whortle-leaved Willow is an extremely hardy and adaptable plant, and is well-suited to a wide range of soils and climatic conditions. It can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including wet meadows, riverbanks, and coastal marshes. It is also commonly planted in gardens and parks, where it can be used as an attractive ornamental shrub or as a specimen tree.

Despite its hardiness and adaptability, the Whortle-leaved Willow does have a few potential drawbacks. For example, it is a relatively slow grower, and its branches can be brittle and prone to breaking in strong winds. Additionally, its leaves and twigs can be messy and can make a bit of a mess if they fall in the fall.

Overall, the Whortle-leaved Willow is a fascinating and beautiful plant that is well worth considering for your garden or landscaping project. With its distinctive leaves and attractive branches, it is sure to make a bold statement in any setting, and is an excellent choice for those looking for a hardy and adaptable tree that is easy to grow and maintain.

The Whortle-leaved Willow is also a valuable plant for wildlife, providing habitat and food for a variety of species. Its flowers are an important source of nectar for pollinators, and its seeds are a favorite food of many types of birds, including finches, sparrows, and grosbeaks. Additionally, the leaves and twigs of the Whortle-leaved Willow are browsed by a range of mammals, including rabbits, deer, and beavers.

In terms of its cultural significance, the Whortle-leaved Willow has been used by indigenous people in North America for a variety of purposes. For example, the bark was used to make baskets and other woven items, while the leaves and twigs were used for medicinal purposes.

Finally, it is worth noting that the Whortle-leaved Willow is an important species in terms of conservation. Despite its hardiness and adaptability, it is considered to be a threatened species in some parts of its range, and it is protected by law in some areas. Efforts are underway to conserve and protect this valuable species, and it is essential that we all do our part to help ensure its survival for future generations to enjoy.

The Whortle-leaved Willow is a unique and valuable plant that offers a wide range of benefits to both people and wildlife. Whether you are looking for an attractive ornamental plant for your garden, or a species that provides important habitat and food for wildlife, the Whortle-leaved Willow is well worth considering. So if you are thinking of adding a new tree or shrub to your landscape, consider the Whortle-leaved Willow – you won't be disappointed!

The Whortle-leaved Willow is also known for its strong root system, which makes it an ideal plant for stabilizing slopes and riverbanks. Its roots are deep and fibrous, and help to prevent erosion and protect against flooding. This makes it a great choice for planting in areas that are prone to landslides or other types of erosion.

In addition, the Whortle-leaved Willow is a drought-tolerant species, and is well adapted to growing in areas with low rainfall. Its leaves are small and thick, which helps to conserve water, and its roots are capable of accessing water deep in the soil, even during periods of drought.

Another benefit of the Whortle-leaved Willow is its ability to absorb pollutants from the soil and water. It is a particularly effective plant for removing heavy metals, such as lead and zinc, from contaminated sites. This makes it an important species for use in phytoremediation projects, which aim to clean up contaminated land and water.

Finally, the Whortle-leaved Willow is a great choice for use in landscaping and restoration projects, as it is able to grow in a wide range of conditions and is able to establish itself quickly. Whether you are planting a new garden or restoring an area of degraded land, the Whortle-leaved Willow is an excellent choice that is sure to provide you with many benefits.

In conclusion, the Whortle-leaved Willow is a highly valuable and versatile species that offers a wide range of benefits to people and the environment. Whether you are looking for a beautiful ornamental plant, a species that provides habitat and food for wildlife, or a plant that can help to stabilize slopes and clean up contaminated land, the Whortle-leaved Willow is well worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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