- Subspecies: Ssp. starkeana, Ssp. cinerascens
- Family: Willow Family – Salicaceae
- Growing form and height: Shrub. 0.3–1 m (1–3.5 ft.).
- Flower: Male and female flowers on separate plants. Inflorescence a slender, fairly lax catkin on a longish, small-leaved stalk. Individual flowers in axils of catkin scales, small, lacking perianth. Catkin scales narrow, yellowish-green to dark, silky-hairy. Stamens 2, filaments long and hairless, anthers yellow, hairless. Pistil formed from 2 fused carpels, ovary long-stalked, hairy.
- Leaves: Alternate. Short-stalked, stipulate. Stipules small, rarely large, ovate to kidney-shaped, with saw-like margins. Leaf-blade 2.5–5 cm (1–2 in.) long, elliptic to obovate, often with bent tip, margins entire to shallow-toothed, somewhat glossy and usu. hairless above, underside pale bluish-grey, prominently veined, and sparsely hairy when young. Vein pairs 5–7.
- Buds: Reddish-brown, glossy, hairless.
- Fruit: Short-hairy capsule. Seeds plumed.
- Habitat: Forest margins, roadsides and field margins, open coniferous woods.
- Flowering time: May–June. Flowers when coming into leaf
Willows are insect-pollinated, sympodially growing, dioecious trees, shrubs, or dwarf shrubs. Their buds have a single protective scale, and their leaves are entire and stipulate. The inflorescence is a catkin which falls off in one piece. Hybrids between willow species are common.
Salix starkeana is a low shrub with spreading branches, which flower when the leaves emerge. Its branches are slender, reddish-brown or yellowish, hairless, and ridged beneath the bark. Young shoots are usually sparsely hairy. Subspecies cinerascens is common in North Finland and Koillismaa. It is somewhat taller, has fairly erect branches that are hairy also when old, and bears leaves that are grey-hairy on both sides.
Willows are a group of 400 to 500 woody species. They occur in all continents apart from Antarctica. Willows so closely resemble poplars (Populus spp.) that they are thought to be descended from similar ancestors. Those willows which have several stamens, such as the bay willow (S. pentandra), occurred already in the Tertiary, and are most similar to poplars. The more highly evolved willow species which have only two stamens seem to have increased only after the ice age. Most of the Finnish species belong to this group. Willows are of economic importance e.g. as raw material in basketry and as a source of tannins. In addition, the bark yields salicine, a medicinal substance.