Shrub 2.5 - 5 m tall Leaves: alternate, sometimes opposite, on 4 - 8.5 mm long leafstalks, shiny dark blue-green above, pale or waxy-looking beneath, 5 - 10 cm long, 3 mm - 2.5 cm wide, lance-shaped with a tapering base and pointed tip, toothed near the tip, and sometimes slightly hairy. Leaves turn blackish when dried. Flowers: either male or female, borne on separate trees (dioecious) in narrow, cylindrical catkins. The catkin is hairy and grows on a short, leafy stalk. Female catkin to 2 cm long with blackish scales. Ovary hairy. Male catkin 1.5 - 2.5 cm long with blackish scales. Stamens two, with reddish anthers (the filaments and anthers are often fused). Fruit: a capsule, in elongated clusters, stalkless, light brown, 3 - 4 mm long, flask-shaped, and slightly hairy. Seeds have long, white, silky hairs attached. Twigs: slender, stout, and purplish, becoming light gray or olive-gray. Buds: purplish, small, pointed, and appressed. Form: rounded and dense.
Similar species: In the Chicago Region, Salix purpurea differs from all other willows by having many leaves that are opposite or subopposite. The other willows have alternate leaves.
Flowering: April to May, before the leaves
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from Eurasia. Cultivated as an ornamental, and occasionally found as an escape in moist soil.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Notes: The stems have been used in basket making.
Etymology: Salix is the Latin word for willow. Purpurea means purple.
Many-stemmed shrub 1-2.5 m; twigs slender, greenish- yellow or rarely purplish, glabrous; stipules none; lvs short-petioled, mostly linear-oblanceolate or spatulate or linear, 4-7(-10) cm נ7-14(18) mm, entire below, irregularly serrate toward the tip, finely raised-reticulate on both sides, with a purplish cast, glaucescent beneath, glabrous, at least some of those towards the ends of the twigs subopposite; catkins precocious, 2-3.5 cm נ5-8 mm, sessile, bracteate, subopposite; scales broadly obovate, blackish, becoming glabrate; stamens 2 but the filaments and often the anthers united; frs ovoid-conic, 3-4 mm, obtuse, sessile, short-hairy; style 0.1-0.2 mm; 2n=38. Native of Europe, sparingly escaped from cult. in our range.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.