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Dwarf Willow

Salix herbacea

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:
20 centimetres tall
Mountains, rocky places.

Yellow, no petals
The female catkins are red when ripe and females are red.
The fruit is a capsule.
A very low-growing, creeping shrub. This is Britain's smallest willow species. It has round, shiny green, toothed leaves. The leaves have prominent veins and are paler on the undersides. Sometimes the Dwarf Willow is claimed to be the world's smallest tree.
Other Names:
Least Willow, Snowbed Willow.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Salix herbacea, commonly known as the dwarf willow, least willow or snowbed willow, is a species of tiny creeping willow (family Salicaceae) adapted to survive in harsh environments. It is native to Arctic regions, typically found in mossy alpine areas on granitic, quartzite and limestone substrates. It is the only willow with an amphi-Atlantic distribution, with disjunct populations occurring as far west as Great Bear and Great Slave lakes. Salix herbacea is a long-lived, clonal, dioecious, prostrate dwarf shrub, which can grow up to 10 cm in height. It produces small, scale-like leaves which are gray-green to yellow-green in color. The leaves turn yellow in autumn and are shed in winter. Flowers are yellowish green, and the fruits are small, reddish-brown capsules. Salix herbacea is threatened in New England and is listed as a species of special concern in Maine and New Hampshire.


Dwarf Willow: A Tiny but Mighty Shrub

The Dwarf Willow (Salix herbacea) is a small shrub that is native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Despite its small size, it is a tough and resilient plant that is capable of thriving in harsh, cold environments.

This shrub can grow up to 20 cm tall and has narrow, dark green leaves that are covered in fine hairs. In the spring and early summer, it produces small, yellow catkins that are an important food source for many species of insects, including bees and butterflies.

Dwarf Willow is a type of willow that belongs to the Salicaceae family, which includes over 300 species of shrubs and trees. This plant is also known by other common names, including Arctic Willow and Alpine Willow.

One of the key adaptations that allow Dwarf Willow to survive in cold, harsh environments is its ability to grow in nutrient-poor soils. Unlike many other plants, Dwarf Willow has a shallow root system that allows it to quickly absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil. This makes it an ideal plant for growing in rocky or sandy soils that are typically low in organic matter.

In addition to its tolerance for harsh conditions, Dwarf Willow is also a valuable plant for wildlife. It provides food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals, including the Arctic Fox and the Snowy Owl. The shrub is also an important source of nectar for bees and butterflies during the spring and early summer, when many other plants have not yet bloomed.

Despite its many benefits, Dwarf Willow is not commonly found in gardens or landscaping projects due to its small size and slow growth rate. However, it can be an excellent choice for rock gardens, wildlife gardens, and other naturalistic landscapes where its tough and resilient nature is valued.

In conclusion, Dwarf Willow is a tiny but mighty shrub that is well-suited to cold and harsh environments. Whether you are looking to attract wildlife to your garden or simply to add a touch of nature to your landscape, this plant is definitely worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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