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Woody > Salix > Salix pyrifolia > Salix pyrifolia

Salix pyrifolia

Balsam Willow

Origin:  Found across Canada in every province including the territories and the north-eastern United States of America. Salix, the latin name for the willow means to leap or spring and refers to its ability to grow fast. Pyrifolia in reference to the leaves means pear-like.
Tree (deciduous), Shrub (deciduous)
Salix balsamiifera, Salix balsamifer var. alpestris, Salix balsamifera var. lanceolata, Salix balsamifera var. vegeta, Salix cordata var. balsamifera, Salix pyrifolia var. lanceolata
USDA Hardiness Zone
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
-35 - (-12)
Temperature (°F)
-30 - (-5)
9 m
6 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
A large shrub to small tree that is widely branched and vigorous in growth.
It thrives along river banks, lake margins and wet ground and would be useful in landscape restoration and naturalization projects.
Easily grown in moist but free draining soils.
Often multi-stemmed to broad spreading in character.
ID Characteristic
The buds and leaves emit a balsam odour. The leaves are slightly tomentose when young, but when mature are thin and firm while the petiole is very short and is either reddish or yellow in colour.
Susceptible to crown gall, ganoderma root and butt rot, these fungus infections can occur due to the plant being continually exposed to waterlogged soil conditions. Lace bugs, oystershell scale and gypsy moth may also be problematic but typically not fatal.
Wetlands, river and lake margins, bogs, sloughs, conifer swamps, roadsides, clearings, boreal forests and rocky outcrops from 0-300 m. Subalpine plantings occur to below 1600 m.
Bark/Stem Description
Young branches are a reddish brown in colour that turns an olive-green in the second year of growth. The older bark is a dull grey colour and is smooth to the touch, but is quite thin.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
The shrub has large lateral buds that are pointed and snugged closely to the twig and are closely spaced and are 64 mm long.
Leaf Description
The leaves are from broadly elliptic, 3-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. Adaxial the leaves are shallowly grooved and sparsely velvety and glossy to glabrous while abaxial they are glaucous. The leaf base is cordate, sub-cordate to rounded to flat while the leaf margins are revolute to serrulate to irregularly serrate, crenate or sinuate. The apex is acute or acuminate.
Flower Description
Flowering before leaf emergence the arrangement of the catkins are typically tilted downward and are covered in unisexual flowers. Male catkins are 2-6 mm long; the pollen filament is either hairless or partly hairy at the base. The female catkins are 25-85 mm long, 1-2 cm diameter borne upon brackets that are 2-22 mm in length and persist even after flowering. Plants found growing in sub-alpine conditions can flower into mid-July. While typically the species flowers depending upon geographic distribution from May to June.
Fruit Description
They are hairless capsules that are very small and are clustered on the flower or catkin. The fruit are 7-8 mm long; the stalk is 2-3.5 mm in length and is a dark orange colour.
Texture Description
A medium to coarse textured plan in winter.
Notable Specimens
Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick, Canada.
As with most Salix species it is easily propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings rooted in sand or perlite, rooting hormones, bottom heat and slight mist will all aid in success.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
The bark and branches from a variety of North American willows have long been used in the relief of pain by indigenous peoples. The twigs and branches contain salicylic acid, a component of the modern-day aspirin.
Farrar, J. L. (1995). Trees in Canada. Markham, Ontario, Canada: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited. Retrieved October 20, 2014