Species list


Salix eleagnos

Bitter willow, olive willow

Bitter willow, olive willow (Eng), sarga, salciña (Spa), sarga (Cat), zume hostoestua (Baq), salciña, salgueiro (Glg).


“The bench stood at the water's edge in a thicket of young willows. It was a lovely spot. Sitting there, one was hidden from all the world.”

'A naughty boy', Anton Chekhov


Shrub up to 6 m tall with very abundant, flexible branches. In some cases it can attain the form of a tree, up to 12 m in height. The branches are brown, greyish-brown, yellowish-brown, or dark red in colour. In old specimens these may be very cracked. The leaves are simple, deciduous, and alternate. They are 12-16 cm long and 3-10 cm wide, linear or linear-lanceolate, with a sharp point and a wedge-shaped base. The margin is very finely serrated, has glands and is turned down toward the underside. When mature they are dark green on the upper side and densely hairy and whitish or greyish on the underside. 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.


This species breeds on stony river banks, in humid valleys and ravines, particularly on calcareous soils. It lives at altitudes of between 200 and 1500 m (2000 m in the Sierra Nevada).


It is found naturally in Asia Minor, northern Africa, and central and southern Europe. On the Iberian Peninsula it is common, being most abundant in the eastern half, which has many base-rich substrates. Its natural range does not include Portugal but it is grown as an ornamental in many ecologically suitable areas.