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Shrub or tree 4 –20 m, often with two to three trunks. Bark reddish brown, deeply furrowed. Branchlets slender, brittle, yellowish brown or grey; buds yellowish brown and glabrous. Leaves deciduous, 6–15 × 1.5–3 cm, ovate to lanceolate, upper surface largely glabrous, lower surface glabrous and thickly glaucous, 7–15 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins glandular-serrate, apex acuminate to caudate; petiole 0.7–2.1 cm long, yellowish, glabrous to tomentose; stipules minute, caducous, conspicuous and kidney-shaped on sprout shoots. Inflorescences coetaneous, borne on leafy axillary branchlets, though accompanying leaves deciduous after flowering. Staminate catkins 3.8–6 cm long, on branchlets 1–2 cm long, bracts tawny, stamens three to seven per flower. Pistillate catkins 2.5–9 cm long, on branchlets 0.4–3.5 cm long, flowers sparse. Capsule brown, ~0.3 cm long. Flowering April to May (USA). Argus 1986, Newsholme 1992. Distribution CANADA: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan; USA: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Habitat Wetlands, including marshland and dune slacks, by rivers and lakes. USDA Hardiness Zone 3. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Argus 1986, Newsholme 1992, Sternberg 2004; NT766. Cross-reference K279.
Salix amygdaloides can be a large, multistemmed tree or can be coppiced to maintain it as a large shrub. As a very hardy tree, at both extremes of temperature, it is a valuable landscaping species for much of west-central North America. It has a slightly pendulous habit, with yellow twigs, and the big glossy leaves have pale undersides – making it, as Sternberg (2004) says, attractive on windy days. It appreciates good conditions of soil and water abundance (Newsholme 1992), but will grow in hot situations in the deserts of the southwestern United States if groundwater is within reach (Sternberg 2004). The catkins are long, but being yellowish green are inconspicuous among the developing leaves.