Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
DescriptionThis multi-branched shrub is 2-6' tall. Branchlet bark is brown, reddish brown, or pale yellow, relatively smooth, and glabrous. Young shoots are light green and short-pubescent. Alternate leaves occur along the smaller branchlets and shoots. Individual leaves are 1½-4" long and ¼-¾" across; they are oblong-elliptic or oblong-oblanceolate in shape with margins that are smooth, slightly undulate, or slightly crenate-dentate with remote teeth. Often, the leaf margins are revolute (rolled under). Leaf bases are wedge-shaped, while their tips are relatively short and blunt. The upper sides of mature leaves are medium green and glabrous, while their lower sides are pale green to white, mostly glabrous, and glaucous. Sometimes fine hairs occur along the lower side of the central veins. Immature leaves are pale yellowish green or reddish green and they are usually more hairy than mature leaves. The petioles are light green, pale yellow, or nearly white; they are either glabrous or short-pubescent. Sometimes lanceolate stipules occur in pairs at the bases of petioles. These stipules are about 3-8 mm. long and deciduous. Prairie Willow is dioecious, producing either all male (staminate) or all female (pistillate) catkins on separate shrubs. Male catkins are ¼-¾" long, consisting of numerous male florets. Initially, male catkins are fuzzy and gray, but they later become more red or yellow from the anthers of their stamens. Each male floret consists of 2 stamens and a silky-hairy bract about 1.5-2.0 mm. in length. The female catkins are ½-2" long, consisting of numerous female florets. Initially, female catkins are somewhat fuzzy and gray, but they later become green, and finally light brown. Each female floret consists of a lanceoloid pistil about 4-8 mm. in length and a silky-hairy bract about 1.5-2.0 mm. in length. There are short pedicels underneath the female florets. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-spring for about 1 week. Afterwards, during late spring or early summer, fertile female florets are transformed into seed capsules that split open at maturity to release their seeds. The tiny seeds are embedded in cottony hairs; they are distributed by the wind. The woody root system is shallow and branching. This shrub reproduces by reseeding itself.