Pussy willow, goat willow, great sallow (Eng), sauce cabruno (Spa), gatsaule (Cat), ahuntz-sahatsa (Baq), salgueiro (Glg).
“Rodman employed a powder as large as chestnuts, made of willow charcoal, simply dried in cast iron pans. This powder was hard and glittering, it left no trace upon the hand”.
‘From the Earth to the Moon’, Julies Verne
This small tree can be up to 10 m tall in optimum conditions, although it may sometimes occur as very branching shrub. It differs from Salix atrocinerea Brot. by its peeling branches, the smooth wood, and the fact that its adult leaves are larger and lack the rust-coloured hairs its relative possesses. However these two species do sometimes hybridise. The leaves are deciduous, simple, alternate, broadly elliptical, oval or rounded. They are 4-11 cm long, 3-6 cm wide and have an entire or finely serrated margin. They are matt on the upper side and velvety on the underside due to a dense tomentum of hairs that give it a uniformly greyish tone. The flowers are borne on long filaments known as catkins. The fruits are capsules that open when ripe to release seeds wrapped in a cottony material that helps them be dispersed by the wind.
We find it in river valleys, open areas and the shrubby fringes of humid forests like beech, fir, oak, and chestnut woodlands, for example. It prefers deep, loose soils and grows from sea level up to altitudes of 2100 m.
It grows across much of Europe and Asia. On the Iberian Peninsula it ranges throughout the north and becomes scarcer towards the south, where it is found on mountains and in ravines, even occurring sporadically in some shady highland enclaves in the Montes de Toledo and Sierra Nevada.