Purple willow, purpleosier willow (Eng), mimbrera, sarga, sarga fina, mimbrera fina (Spa), saulic (Cat), zume gorria, zumarika (Baq), salgueiro, vime (Glg), salgueiro de casca roxa (Por).
“At the point of the lake which projected to the north, they had discovered an osier-bed in which grew a large number of purple osiers. Before the rainy season, Pencroft and Herbert had cut down these useful shrubs, and their branches, well prepared, could now be effectively employed.”
'The Mysterious Island', Jules Verne
This is small tree that can reach 6 m in height, although it is generally more shrub-like. Its twigs are yellowish or reddish (purple), hence its specific name; they are hairless and shiny, often seeming to be varnished. It is the only Iberian willow whose leaves are usually opposite, although on the lower parts of the twigs there may be some small, alternate leaves. They are deciduous, simple, linear, linear-lanceolate, very narrow in general although somewhat wider in the upper third (oblong). They are 5-12 mm wide and 3-12 cm long. They have lightly serrated margins and lack hairs on both sides. This species does not possess stipules, which are small, modified leaves found on other willows, specifically at the bases of the true leaves on both sides of the leaf stalk. Flowering occurs from January to March, and flowers grow in groups, called catkins, which are elongated and narrow, and almost always opposite, like the leaves. Numerous varieties are recognised which are differentiated by the leaflets. Paloma Blanco, in Flora iberica, describes four of them. The most typical is the variety purpurea, with more alternate than opposite leaves that are narrow, wedge-shaped at the base and toothed only in the upper half. The other three are var. gracilis Gren. & Godron, var. lambertiana (Sm.) W. D. J. Koch, and var. amplexicaulis (Bory & Chaub.) Boiss.
This species is found from altitudes of 50 m to 2000 m, such as in the Sierra Nevada, on the banks of rivers and streams, in marshes, lagoons, and moist permeable soils, such as sands and gravels. Like all willow species it helps stabilise the banks of watercourses.
This willow ranges throughout Europe and northern Africa, and is also grown in America for basket making. On the Iberian Peninsula it is distributed across almost all of Spain, but becomes rarer towards the west. In fact, in Portugal it is found only in a very localised area. Sometimes, in winter and at the beginning of spring, before the leaves come out and when the tree is in full bloom, it is possible to distinguish this species in forest canopies along riverbanks because of its purple colour and shiny twigs.