Salix bebbiana (Bebb's Willow)
|Also known as:||Beaked Willow|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist to wet; swamps, shores, wetland edges, thickets, seeps, swales, wet meadows, wet ditches|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||4 to 25 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious) in spike-like clusters (catkins) at the tips of short branchlets along 1 year old branches, emerging with or just before the leaves. Male catkins are 3/8 to 1+ inch long, the flowers densely packed, each flower with 2 yellow-tipped stamens.
Female catkins are ¾ to 2¼ inches long, the flowers loosely arranged, bulbous at the base with a long beak, covered in fine hairs, and on slender stalks 2 to 6 mm (to ¼ inch) long. At the base of each male and female flower stalk is a tiny, narrow, orange-brown to pinkish, scale-like bract that may have a few straight or curly hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, 1 to 3 inches long, up to 1¼ inch wide, 2 to 3 times as long as wide, generally elliptic, widest at or above the middle, mostly pointed at the tip, wedge-shaped to somewhat rounded at the base, toothless or with shallow, rounded teeth around the edges. The upper surface is medium to dark green, the lower surface pale gray-green. At the base of the leaf stalk is a pair of small, leaf-like appendages (stipules) that are jagged to pointed across the tip edge, but are mostly absent on early leaves.
New leaves are moderately to densely covered in white hairs on both surfaces and often red-tinged, becoming somewhat less hairy with maturity. Both surfaces show a network of prominent veins, indented on the upper surface and raised on the lower. New branchlets are hairy and green, becoming reddish and sometimes hairless the second year.
Stems have thin, smooth, gray bark, with multiple stems in a fairly tight clump. Older, mature trunks develop furrowed, dark gray bark and can reach 8+ inches diameter.
Fruit is a capsule 5 to 9 mm long, green to yellowish, covered in appressed hairs, inflated at the base with a long, slender beak. The capsule splits into two halves when mature, releasing the cottony seed.
There are over 20 species of Willows in Minnesota; Bebb's Willow is one of several common species and is typically a multi-stemmed shrub, sometimes taking the form of a single-stemmed tree up to 25 feet tall. It is found in a variety of moist to wet places including lake and pond margins, swamps, wet meadows and wet ditches, often with other Willow species. It is perhaps one of the easier species to recognize by its leaves: hairy, pale gray-green on the underside, and with a network of prominent veins, which can be seen even with young, emerging leaves. The female flowers and fruits are hairy, loosely arranged and have the longest stalks of the Minnesota Willows, 3 to 6 mm (to ¼ inch) long; male flowers have 2 stamens. Both male and female flowers are subtended by a tiny, narrow, pale orange-brown to pinkish bract that may or may not be hairy.
The leaves most closely resemble those of Balsam Willow (Salix pyrifolia), which also have a network of prominent veins but are hairless and often heart-shaped at the base, plus its twigs are hairless and typically a bright red. The fruits may resemble Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), which are also somewhat loosely arranged and hairy, but the flower stalks are not more than 3 mm long, the scale-like bract is typically blackish and densely long-hairy, and it blooms earlier, the fruit nearing maturity when Bebb's Willow is just flowering. Pussy Willow leaves also lack the strong venation of Bebb's Willow and are only hairy when young.
Salix bebbiana has been known to hybridize with a few other willows; only one hybrid occurrence (with S. petiolaris) has ever been recorded in Minnesota, from a Minneapolis park in 1915, so such cases are rare here. Coincidentally(?), the single recorded hybrid occurrence of Salix discolor x candida was on the same day at the same park.
Please visit our sponsors
Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓
- Bebb's Willow shrub
- Bebb's Willow shrub
- male Bebb's Willow in full bloom
- sometimes grows as a small tree, trunk to 8+ inches diameter
- stipules usually present on later leaves
- leaves are hairy with a network of prominent veins
- leaf scan
- midge galls look like pine cones
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Cook, Lake, Kandiyohi, Ramsey and St. Louis counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?