Salix fragilis

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 Salix fragilis subsp. var.  Brittle willow, Crack willow
Salix fragilis 004.jpg
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
50ft 35ft
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Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 35 ft
Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun
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USDA Zones: 6 to 10
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Salicaceae > Salix fragilis var. , L.

Salix fragilis (Crack Willow) is a species of willow native to Europe and western Asia, usually growing beside rivers.[1][2]

It is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree, which grows rapidly to 10–20 m (rarely to 29 m) tall, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter and an irregular, often leaning crown. The bark is grey-brown, coarsely fissured in older trees. The leaves are bright green, 9-15 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide, with a finely serrated margin; they are very finely hairy at first in spring, but soon become hairless. The flowers are produced in catkins in early spring, and pollinated by insects. They are dioecious, with male and female catkins on separate trees; the male catkins are 4–6 cm long, the female catkins also 4–6 cm long, with the individual flowers having either one or two nectaries.[1][2][3]

The cultivar Salix fragilis 'Russelliana' (syn. S. fragilis var. russelliana (Sm.) Koch) is by far the commonest clone of Crack Willow in Great Britain and Ireland, very easily propagated by cuttings. It is a vigorous tree commonly reaching 20–25 m tall, with leaves up to 15 cm long. It is a female clone.[1]

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Salix fragilis, Linn. (S. viridis, Fries. S. Russelliana, Smith). Brittle Willow. Fig. 3526. Tree, 50-60 ft. high, excurrent in habit and of very rapid growth: branches brown, obliquely ascending: buds medium size, pointed: lvs. large, lanceolate-acuminate, glabrous or slightly hairy when young, scarcely paler beneath, glandular serrate: aments appearing with the lvs. (the staminate tree rare in Amer.), seldom bearing good seed, slender; scales deciduous. Eu., N. Asia. Gn. 19, p. 517; 55, p. 89.—Frequently cult. and also growing spontaneously in many places. A company of promoters induced many American farmers to plant hedges of this willow some 50 years ago. Many of these occur now throughout the country, the trees being 40-50 ft. high. A stake cut from a tree and driven in the ground will soon establish itself and grow into a tree. Var. decipiens, Hoffm. Twigs yellow: buds black in winter: lvs. smaller and brighter green. Probably a hybrid with another species.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



The name derives from the twigs which break off very easily and cleanly at the base with an audible crack. The broken twigs and branches take root readily, enabling the species to colonise new areas, where the broken twigs fall into rivers and can be carried some distance downstream.

Pests and diseases


The variety Salix fragilis var. decipiens (Hoffm.) K.Koch occurs frequently with the type; it is a smaller shrubby tree, rarely exceeding 5–7 m tall, with completely hairless leaves up to 9 cm long and 2–3 cm broad. According to some botanists, it is a distinct species (treated as Salix decipiens Hoffm.), with, in this view, S. fragilis then being a hybrid between Salix decipiens and Salix alba. Some other botanists regard Salix decipiens as itself being a hybrid between Salix fragilis and Salix triandra. There is little evidence to support either of these suggestions.[1]

It readily forms natural hybrids with White Willow Salix alba, the hybrid being named Salix × rubens Schrank.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Meikle, R. D. (1984). Willows and Poplars of Great Britain and Ireland. BSBI Handbook No. 4. ISBN 0-901158-07-0.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  3. Bean, W. J. (1980). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles 8th ed., vol. 4. John Murray ISBN 0-7195-2428-8.

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