Salix bebbiana – Bebb’s Willow

Bebb’s Willow (also called Beaked Willow) is one of the most common and widespread shrub willows in the Ottawa area, ranging north into boreal Canada and Alaska.  It can grow to 5 or 6 meters high and is often an early colonizer of moist, disturbed sites.

Quilted texture of Bebb’s Willow leaves at Petrie Island.

In our region Bebb’s Willow is relatively easy to identify.  Its main distinctive characteristic is its leaf, which can be variable in shape (elliptic, oblong).

  1. The leaf can be elliptic or oblong or broader beyond the middle (obovate), tapering to an abrupt point.
  2. The upper leaf surface is dull with impressed veinlets giving it a quilted appearance and texture.
  3. The lower surface is glaucous (blueish-white) and often pubescent (hairy) although not excessively so.

The leaves of Bebb’s Willow share some similarities with those of Upland Willow (S. humilis), which also has depressed veins.  However, Upland Willow’s leaves are involute (curl upward) and very wooly (pubescent) on the lower surface.  Its leaf also tends to be longer than that of Bebb Willow.  Upland Willow prefers dry conditions and does not grow as large as Bebb’s Willow, but both can colonize intermediate sites so observe the leaves of your specimen carefully.

Here are selected photographs with location coordinates in iNaturalist: – Large shrub, leaves, twigs, Ottawa Greenbelt. – Leaves and twig on Petrie Island – Upper and lower leaf surfaces showing abruptly impressed veins and glaucous below, at Kanata Lakes. – Young leaves in Ottawa Greenbelt. – Female flowers, Ottawa Greenbelt.
Stipules on Bebb’s Willow at Kanata Lakes.
Lower leaf surface is glaucous and often pubescent (O. Clarkin).