|The classic outline of stately White Willows (Salix alba) in the Yare Valley at Buckenham, Norfolk|
|A low, spreading mound of Creeping Willow (Salix repens) in the dunes at Holkham, Norfolk|
Willows are related to poplars and share a few features with them, such as the presence of stipules at the base of the young leaves and petalless flowers that are wind pollinated and clustered together in catkins. Male and female flowers appear on separate plants and those of the sallows seem to be especially popular with bumblebees in the spring.
|This close-up of an Almond Willow (Salix triandra) stem shows one of a pair of leaf-like structures known as stipules. These structures are a useful feature in a handful of plant families and can help with species identification.|
|Male catkin of Goat Willow (Salix caprea). Each single flower is topped with yellow stamens; the number of stamens per flower can sometimes by useful for identification.|
|Female catkin of Grey Willow (Salix cinerea). Each single flower is accompanied by a dark bract and topped with the two-lobed, cream-coloured stigma.|
The species of willow that occur in East Anglia are mostly fairly easy to tell apart, but identification of the sallows is complicated by the freedom with which the various species hybridise. These hybrids can be fertile and further hybridise with other species, potentially creating a bewildering array of forms. We have many uses for sallows and their wood and for this reason, hybrids have been produced commercially and are widely planted in the countryside, further complicating the issue for the would-be botanist. Sometimes, it can be very tempting to quietly move away and go and look at something else!