Salix alexensis : Alaskan Willow


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Genera: Salix (Willows) (Classic Latin name for willow)

Species: alexensis (alexensis = of Alaska)

Synonym(s): S.longistylis

English Name(s):

Alaskan Willow, Feltleaf Willow

First Nation Names:




  • Plants erect shrubs or small trees, 0.3-8m tall.
  • Trunk gnarled.
  • Branches gnarled, dark brown to chestnut brown.
  • Young twigs and branches permanently and conspicuously velvety-tomentose (fuzzy).


  • Alternate.
  • Buds of all salix spp. (Willows) are covered by a single scale.
  • Young leaves frangrant.
  • Mature leaves oblanceolate-elliptic in shape.
  • 4-8cm long by 2-2.5cm wide.
  • Lower surface velvety-tomentose (fuzzy).
  • Upper surface dull green.
  • Mrgins entire (smooth) or glandular, revolute (rolled downward).
  • Petioles (stalks) 5-15mm long, yellowish.
  • Stipules persistent (not falling off), linear in shape.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Flowers lacking a parianth(sepals + petals). Born in cylindrical catkins.
  • Plants dioecious (uni-sexual).
  • Catkins sessile (no stalk), appearing before leaves.
  • Pistilate (female) catkins 6-15cm long, stout, erect, pistils green, sparsely pubescent (hairy).
  • Nectaries 0.6-1.0mm long, as long or longer than the stipe (stalk).
  • Bracts acute or obtuse in shape, dark brown to black, villose (Woolly), with long straight hairs.
  • Staminate (male) catkins 3-3.5 cm long.
  • Seed:

    • Fruit a dehiscent (splitting open) capsule containing numerous small seeds.
    • Seed capsules (mature pistils) 4-5mm long, green, glabrescent (mostly hairless).
    • Not to Be Confused With:

      • Many of the erect shrub Salix (Willow) species can be hard to distinguish from each other. Useing the Keys and especially the Character Chart Key on the Salicaceae (Willow Family) Page should help.
      • Salix scouleriana (Scouler's Willow) which can be distinguished by it shorter pistillate (female) catkins and its lack of stipules (leaf apendages).



    • Are insect pollenated. Both male and female flowers have nectaries to attract pollenating insects. Male pollen is also brightly coloured red or yellow to attract insects.
    • Several types of galls can be seen on willows. These are deformations of plant tissue caused by the physical actions or chemical secretions of insects.
    • Willow Roses are a type of gall that grows on some species of willow. It is caused by the larvae of Cecidomyia rosaria. The larvae through chemical secretions cause the leaves of the bud to grow in a rose petal like fashion.

    Life Cycle:

    Seasonal Cycle:

    • Leaves and catkins deciduous.
    • Catkins appearing before the leaves.


    Animal Uses:

    • In spring and early summer the catkins and young leaves are eagerly eaten by many mammals and birds.
    • Moose, caribou and deer all eat the twigs and young branches.
    • The twigs and bark are eaten by hares and lemmings.
    • Willow is an important food for bears and a secondary food for beavers.
    • Willow is an important food for many animals.
    • Winter buds are one of the principle winter foods of ptarmigan and grouse.


    • Thicket forming on gravel bars and river terraces and along streams and around lakes.
    • Also in alpine meadows.
    • River alluvium and gravel moraines, in immature forests, and in subalpine and alpine tundra.






        Traditional Gwich'in:





                Traditional Other:






                        Colourful pollen on male catkins

                        Female catkins on bloom

                        Spent male catkins

                        Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

                        Range Maps

                        World Range: Amphi-berengian east to Hudson Bay, south into northern BC, and along Rockies to southwestern AB.

                        Prov/State Abrev. List

                        In Yukon: Found throughout the territory.

                        To Top Of Page