sandbar willow

(Salix interior)

Conservation Status


No image available

  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Sandbar willow is a tall, deciduous shrub, rarely a small tree, that rises on numerous stems. It can be 13 to 21 in height and up to 3½ in diameter at breast height. Unlike other willows, it does not form a root crown. The root system is spreading and horizontal. Additional aerial stems rise from buds on roots near the surface (suckering). It often forms dense colonies.

The stems are erect. The bark is gray or yellowish-brown and smooth on young stems; gray and relatively smooth on mature stems; gray or brown, somewhat rough, and sometimes finely plated or ridged on older stems.

Branches are slender, grayish-brown or reddish-brown, ascending, and flexible at the base. First year secondary branches (branchlets) are greenish-brown or yellowish-brown and sparsely to densely hairy. They do not have a whitish waxy coating (glaucous). They sometimes become hairless or almost hairless as they age. Second-year branchlets are reddish-brown or grayish-brown and hairless. Lateral buds are blunt at the tip. They are covered by what appears to be a single scale but is actually two opposite scales that are fused together. The scales are not sticky.

The leaves are alternate and linear to narrowly oblong. The largest mid-stem leaves are 2 to 6¼ long and to 7 16 wide, mostly 11 to 19 times as long as wide. They are on short leaf stalks (petioles) that may be 1 32 to long but are usually no more than 3 16 long. The petioles may be hairy or hairless. They do not have a pair of glands where they attach to the blade. At the base of the petiole on late-season leaves there is a pair of minute or well-developed, leaf-like appendages (stipules), but these fall off early and are often missing. On early-season leaves the stipules are rudimentary or absent. The leaf blade is wedge-shaped at the base and tapered at the tip with straight or somewhat convex sides at the tip. There is a single well-developed midvein. The upper surface is medium green and slightly glossy. It may be sparsely to moderately hairy, especially along the midvein, or completely hairless. The lower surface is similar in color, not glaucous. The margins are flat, not rolled under, and have 2 to 5 small, widely-spaced, sharp, forward-pointing teeth per centimeter (). Young, unfolding leaves are reddish-green or yellowish-green and are sparsely to densely covered with long silky hairs on the underside.

Male and female flowers are borne in cylindrical clusters (catkins) on separate plants. Early catkins flower as the leaves appear beginning in early May. Male catkins are ¾ to 2 long and to wide. They appear at the end of a leafy, to ¾ long branchlet. Female catkins are ¾ to 2¾ long, 3 16 to wide, and loosely flowered. They appear at the end of a leafy, to ¾long branchlet. Late catkins appear as late as early July. They are on longer branchlets and often have short, secondary, lateral catkins.

The sepals and petals are reduced to a single, minute, nectar-secreting gland (nectary). Male flowers have 2 separated stamens with hairy white filaments and yellow anthers.

The fruit is a to long capsule with numerous seeds. The seeds are released early June to mid-August, and are dispersed by wind.




13 to 21


Flower Color




Similar Species


Slender willow (Salix petiolaris) leaves are broader, 5 to 9 times as long as wide. The lower leaf surface is pale and distinctly glaucous.


Wet to dry. A variety of habitats but especially sandy or silty flood plains, margins of lakes and ponds, marshes, sloughs, and dry sandy hills on prairies. Full sun.




Early May to early July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 28, 29, 30.








Very common and widespread

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Malpighiales (nances, willows, and allies)  


Salicaceae (willow)  
  Subfamily Salicoideae  
  Tribe Saliceae  
  Genus Salix (willows)  
  Subgenus Longifoliae  
  Section Longifoliae  

Sandbar willow (Salix interior) hybridizes with narrowleaf willow (Salix exigua) where their ranges overlap in the western Great Plains. Sandbar willow is sometimes classified as a subspecies of the latter, Salix exigua ssp. interior. The area of hybridization is relatively small and the two species remain morphologically distinct. Most taxonomic authorities, with the notable exception of GRIN, retain the name Salix interior.


Subordinate Taxa






Salix exigua ssp. interior

Salix exigua var. exterior

Salix exigua var. pedicellata

Salix exigua var. sericans

Salix fluviatilis var. sericans

Salix interior var. exterior

Salix interior var. pedicellata

Salix interior var. wheeleri

Salix linearifolia

Salix longifolia

Salix longifolia var. interior

Salix longifolia var. pedicellata

Salix longifolia var. sericans

Salix longifolia var. wheeleri

Salix rubra

Salix wheeleri


Common Names


narrowleaf willow

sandbar willow












A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.



The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



A tissue or organ which produces nectar, usually at or near the base of the inside of a flower.



On plants: The stalk of a leaf blade or a compound leaf that attaches it to the stem. On ants and wasps: The constricted first one or two segments of the rear part of the body.



A basal shoot rising from the roots or from a bud at the base of a shrub or tree.



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.

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