Salix candida – Sage Willow

Silver-grey, woolly foliage at Garry Fen (O. Clarkin).

Regionally significant due to its rarity, Sage Willow is a low shrub, usually under 1 meter in height, found in calcareous fens and swamps.

Sage Willow is quite distinctive and easy to identify by its leaves and its habitat:

  • leaves are narrow and elliptic, tapering to a sharp point, usually toothless;
  • upper surface quilted with indented veins, dark, grey-green and slightly woolly;
  • underside very woolly and silver-white;
  • stipules usually present;
  • leaves can be revolute (curl under);
  • grows on sphagnum mats, fens, and usually calcareous.

Sage Willow may be confused with Upland Willow (S. humilis), which also has woolly leaves, but Upland Willow has larger, broader leaves that are often involute (rolled upward) and it prefers dry habitats.

Here are selected photographs with location coordinates in iNaturalist: – shrub, woolly leaves at Garry Fen Trail. – woolly, quilted, sage-like leaves near McDonald’s Corners. – leaves and stipules at Garry Fen Trail.

Robust growth and stipules at Garry Fen (O. Clarkin).
Woolly leaves at a Lanark fen.
Woolly underside at a Lanark fen.