Arctic Willow (Salix arctica)

Arctic Willow (Salix arctica)The arctic willow is a shrub that never exceeds more than 60 centimeters (24 inches) in height and grows in clumps that form dense mats on the tundra.  This low growing shrub has round, shiny green leaves with long silky, silvery hairs.  The plant’s catkins (slim, cylindrical flowers) are red colored on female Artic Willows and yellow colored on the male plants.  Despite its small size, the plants live for a very long time with one plant in Greenland found to be nearly 250 years old.

Artic Willow flower stalks (catkins)Where to Find: The arctic willow is common on tundras in North America, Europe, and Asia. You can also find it in some mountainous areas in temperate regions.

Edible Parts: You can collect the succulent, tender young shoots of the arctic willow in early spring. Strip off the outer bark of the new shoots and eat the inner portion raw. You can also peel and eat raw the young underground shoots of any of the various kinds of
arctic willow. Young willow leaves are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, containing 7 to 10 times more than an orange.

Artic Willow plant component drawing

Artic Willow plant component drawing

Artic Willow catkins

Patch of Artic Willow in Russia

Pink Artic Willow flower stalks

Brown Artic Willow leaves

Artic Willow leaf