Salix lucida (Shining Willow)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Salicaceae (Willow)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:sun; moist to wet; shores, stream banks, swamps, swales, wet ditches
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:3 to 20 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of male catkins] Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious) in spike-like clusters (catkins) at the tips of short branchlets along 1 year old branches, emerging with the leaves. Male catkins are ¾ to 2¾ inches long, the flowers densely packed, each flower with 2 yellow-tipped stamens.

[photo of female catkin] Female catkins are ¾ to 2¼ inches long, the flowers crowded or somewhat loosely arranged on the spike, bulbous at the base with a long beak, hairless, and on slender stalks .5 to 2 mm long. At the base of each male and female flower stalk is a tiny, green to yellowish scale-like bract with sparse wavy hairs that may only be present at the base of the bract.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf] Leaves are alternate, 2 to 5½ inches long, to 1½ inches wide, 2.3 to 6 times as long as wide, oblong to lance-elliptic, mostly widest near the middle, wedge-shaped to rounded at the base, with a long taper to a pointed tip, often with a slender, tail-like extension at the tip. The upper surface is shiny medium to yellow green, the lower surface somewhat paler green. Edges are finely toothed with a tiny gland at the tip of each tooth; a few glands are usually also near the tip of the leaf stalk where it meets the blade.

[photo of stipules and glands on leaf stalk] At the base of the leaf stalk is a pair of leaf-like appendages (stipules) that are up to 6 mm (¼ inch) long, rounded at the tip, shallowly toothed with a tiny gland at the tip of each tooth. New leaves are yellowish-green to reddish, shiny, sparsely to moderately covered in white and/or rusty hairs on the lower surface and may become hairless with age.

[photo of orange twig and bud scales] New branchlets are yellowish-green to orange-brown or red-brown, hairless to sparsely hairy. Bud scales are large, shiny, about the same color as the twig and can persist for weeks after bud-break. Stems are multiple from the base, have smooth to slightly rough gray bark, and can reach 6+ inches diameter.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The spike elongates some as fruit matures, the fruit becoming more loosely arranged than the flowers. Fruit is a capsule 5 to 7 mm long, yellowish when mature, hairless, pear-shaped, inflated at the base with a long beak. The capsule splits into two halves when mature, releasing the cottony seed.


There are over 20 species of Willows in Minnesota; Shining Willow is one of several common species and is a medium to large, multi-stemmed shrub, occasionally taking the form of a bushy tree up to 20 feet tall. It is found in a variety of moist to wet places including lake and pond margins, swamps, wet meadows and wet ditches, seeming to prefer edge habitats and does not form large stands.

Shining Willow is recognized by the shiny, toothed leaves up to 5½ inches long, many of which have a long, slender, tail-like tip; leaf-stalks usually have small glands at the tip near the blade; hairless capsules 5 to 7 mm long on stalks up to 2 mm long; male flowers have 2 stamens. Both male and female flowers emerge with the leaves and are subtended by a yellowish to greenish bract with sparse, wavy hairs. Stipules are persistent, small and minutely toothed, with a gland at each tooth tip. New leaves commonly have at least some rust-colored hairs but they do not persist. The large bud scales are pretty distinctive. Be sure to inspect several leaves before determining glands are absent.

Shining Willow most closely resembles Autumn Willow (Salix serissima), which also has shiny leaves and glands at the tip of the leaf stalk, but is a smaller shrub, not usually over 6 feet, stipules are absent or obscure, even new leaves are completely hairless and are pale blue-green to somewhat whitened on the lower surface, leaf tips have a shorter taper to a point, male flowers have 3 or more stamens, and its fruit can persist to as late as October, where Shining Willow seeds are usually released by the end of June. The only other Willows in Minnesota with shiny leaves and glands on the leaf stalk are Bay Willow (Salix pentandra) and Crack Willow (Salix fragilis), both non-native trees with longer, more slender catkins and lacking any persistent stipules. Bay Willow is mostly seen in cultivation, only occasionally in the wild and has proportionately broader leaves with a shorter taper to the tip; Crack Willow has narrower, stiff leaves.

Some references list multiple subspecies (or vars) of Salix lucida, notably subsp. caudata, subsp. lasiandra, subsp. lucida and a var. intonsa; the first two are western species now listed as vars of Salix lasiandra and the others are not currently recognized as separate vars of S. lucida, though that could change as study of the various Salix complexes progresses.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated

More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Kittson and Marshall counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.