T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Salix alba var. vitellina (Golden willow)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Salicaceae
Genus: Salix
Species: S. alba var. vitellina
Binomial name: Salix alba var. vitellina
Synonyms: Salix triandra 'Amygdalina Vitellina', Salix vitellina, Salix 'Vitellina'
Common name: Golden willow

S. alba var. vitellina is a relatively large spreading, upright, deciduous tree (occasionally reaching 25 m in height). It can have one or more trunks. The origin of this variety is obscure, but it may have came about through the cultivation of white willow (Salix alba) in Europe.
S. alba var. vitellina has alternately arranged leaves on short stalks. They are elongated in shape (3-13 cm long and 0.5-2.5 cm wide), the margins are finely toothed and have pointed tips. The upper surface is a bright green while the underside is a pale green, silvery or bluish-green.
The bark on the main trunk is greyish-brown in colour and eventually it becomes rough and deeply fissured. Younger branches are hairy at first, but quickly becoming hairless. They usually take on a golden yellow or orange colour and may or may not be drooping in nature.
Male and female flowers (slender catkins) are borne on separate trees in the upper leaf forks during spring. The female flowers are mostly green in colour and are usually borne in longer clusters (3-9 cm long and about 6 mm across). They are about 3 mm long and consist of an ovary topped with a stigma. The male flowers are green or greenish-yellow in colour and are borne in relatively short clusters (3-6 cm long and about 1 cm across). They are about 4-5 mm long and consist of two or more yellow stamens. The fruit is a small capsule (about 4 mm long) containing tiny seeds each topped with a tuft of silky hairs.
The light and fluffy seeds are easily dispersed by wind and water, while twigs and branches may be spread during floods, by machinery, during removal, and in dumped garden waste.

In New Zealand Salix alba var. vitellina has been planted around waterbodies, rain gardens and have been used alongside crack willow in flood protection plantings. The female tree also freely hybridises with related species, especially crack willow (Salix fragilis male), with the resulting hybrids sometimes being even more invasive. They compete strongly for space, water and nutrients, eventually displacing the native vegetation in the habitats they invade.

The top surface of a leaf.

The underside of a leaf.

The rough and deeply fissured trunk.