What is the plant
Salix cinerea (common sallow, grey sallow, grey willow, grey-leaved sallow, large grey willow, pussy willow, rusty sallow) is a species of willow native to Europe and western Asia.
The plant provides a great deal of nectar for pollinators. It was rated in the top 10, with a ranking of second place, for most nectar production (nectar per unit cover per year) in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand project which is supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative.
It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing 4–15 metres (13–50 ft) tall. The leaves are spirally arranged, 2–9 cm (1–3 1⁄2 in) long and 1–3 cm (1⁄2–1 1⁄2 in) broad (exceptionally up to 16 cm long and 5 cm broad), green above, hairy below, with a crenate margin. The flowers are produced in early spring in catkins 2–5 cm long; it is dioecious with male and female catkins on separate plants. The male catkins are silvery at first, turning yellow when the pollen is released; the female catkins are greenish grey, maturing in early summer to release the numerous tiny seeds embedded in white cottony down which assists wind dispersal.
The two subspecies are:
S. c. cinerea - central and eastern Europe, western Asia, shrub to 4–6 m (rarely 10 m) tall, with smooth bark, leaves densely hairy below with pale yellow-grey hairs, stipules large, persistent until autumn
S. c. oleifolia (Sm.) Macreight (syn. S. atrocinerea Brot.) - western Europe, northwest Africa, shrub or tree to 10–15 m tall, with furrowed bark, leaves thinly hairy below with dark red-brown hairs, stipules small, early deciduous
Some overlap in the distributions (not indicated in the map, right) occurs, with both occurring in a broad band north to south through France, and scattered specimens of S. c. cinerea west to Ireland, western France, and Morocco; scattered specimens of S. c. oleifolia occur east to the Netherlands. Specimens of S. c. oleifolia in southern Scandinavia are planted or naturalised, not native. Intermediate specimens also occur.
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