Willows Salix spp.
Family: Salicaceae (Willow)
Branching: Alternate

Willows are a large and confusing group of plants.  Though some of them are easily recognized (like the common ornamental, Weeping Willow), most are distinguished by minute and variable details visible mainly in the summer.  In addition, members of the group hybridize frequently, adding to the confusion.  Those the tree-height willows are more commonly noticed, the majority of species grow as shrubs.  Some are in fact the most northern deciduous trees in the world, with their "trunks" growing flat along the ground high in the Arctic circle.  Despite the confusion between species, identifying a plant as a member of the genus is very simple.  At a glance, most willows have yellow, orange, or sometimes reddish twigs that easily stand out.  Their buds have only one scale, almost resembling a hood or a duck's bill, and are flattened against the twig.  In the summer, many willows have "stipules" which are small leafy projections on either side of the bud.  Sometimes the scars left from the stipules are visible in the winter.

The distinctive winter bud of a Willow, one single scale and flattened against the twig

Winter twig of a Willow.  A stipule scar is visible beside the lower leaf scar

Another view of a lateral bud

Winter twig of another species

Another willow twig

Another willow twig

Willows are often afflicted by gall-making insects that.  These "pine cone" galls are very common.

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copyright © 2008 Josh Sayers
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