Salix eriocephala – Heart-leaved Willow

Red-tipped new growth at Petrie Island.

Also called Woolly-headed Willow and Missouri River Willow (in the US), the red-tipped new growth of Heart-leaved Willow gives it its scientific name of eriocephala, which means “red headed” from Greek.  Although considered uncommon in Ottawa, it is locally abundant at Petrie Island.  It can grow to become a medium-sized, multi-stemmed shrub up to 5 meters in height.

According to Go Botany, this species is a host for the caterpillars of the Mourning Cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa).  It blooms early in the spring with Pussy Willow (S. discolor), providing nectar when there are few flowering plants.

Distinguishing features:

  • lanceolate, finely toothed leaves have a rounded, heart-shaped base which may be more or less pronounced or even absent;
  • red-tipped new growth, slightly hairy, becoming hairless with maturity;
  • new twigs have short-hairs, becoming hairless with maturity;
  • large, persistent stipules (similar to S. nigra).

Here are selected photographs with location coordinates in iNaturalist: – reddish new growth at Larose Forest – heart-shaped base and persistant stipules in August, in Ottawa’s greenbelt. – red-tipped new growth, heart-shaped leaf, and stipules in September at Petrie Island. – leaf and stipules at Britannia Conservation Area. – leaf, stipules, shrub at Alvin Runnalls Forest. – flowers and near growth (not red) at Alvin Runnalls Forest. – red tips, leaves, and stipules at Kanata near the Carp River.

Red-tipped new growth at Larose Forest (O. Clarkin).
Heart-shaped leaves with stipules.
Red-tipped new growth in Kanata near the Carp River.