Species Profile

Blanket-leaved Willow

Scientific Name: Salix silicicola
Other/Previous Names: Felt-leaf Willow
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Saskatchewan
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2000
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Blanket-leaved Willow

Blanket-leaved Willow Photo 1



The Felt-leaf Willow is an erect shrub, 1 to 2 m (sometimes up to 3m) high, with spreading branches and twigs that are densely covered with felted white hairs. The roughly oval-shaped, flat leaves are borne on 2 to 10 mm long leaf stalks. They are 3 to 6 cm long and 2 to 3.5 cm wide, have a rounded or broadly wedge-shaped base, prominent veins, and do not have serrated margins. Both their upper and lower surfaces are covered with thickly felted white hairs. The catkins are stemless and consist of clusters of flowers borne in spikes and covered with long white hairs. At the base of each catkin is a scale-like bract. The seeds bear tufts of cottony hairs. This species is dioecious (has separate male and female plants).


Distribution and Population

The Felt-leaf Willow is found only in only two locations: the Athabasca Sand Dunes of northwestern Saskatchewan and Pelly Lake in the Keewatin District in the Northwest Territories. In the Athabasca Sand Dunes, it occurs as scattered plants throughout most of the dune fields. Although no studies have been done on population size and trends, it is relatively common and widespread and the population is believed to be stable. Virtually nothing is known about the Pelly Lake population.



In the Athabasca Sand Dunes, this willow occurs on large, open, active sand dunes, primarily on the crests, leeward slope ridges, moister hollows, advancing edges, and in dune slacks. It also occurs as scattered individuals or small patches on the shallow shifting sands of gravel flats throughout the dune fields and sometimes on the broad sandy beaches and beach terraces of Lake Athabasca. Nothing is known about the location or the habitat of the Felt-leaf Willow at Pelly Lake, NT.



In early spring, the catkins appear with the leaves. Because this willow is dioecious, self-pollination is impossible. The flowers are mostly insect-pollinated, and so are scented and have nectar glands at their base. Flies and bees seem to be the main pollinators, but wind pollination may also occur. The seeds are specialized for wind dispersal; they are light weight and have tufts of fine hairs. Seeds germinate and seedlings become established on gravel pavements. This willow reproduces by seeds, but some branches that become buried in the sand can root and subsequently branch. It is believed that this species may hybridize with other willows in the area, but no hybrids have been reported to date.



Although the dunes occur in a remote area, threats to the willow from potential increased public accessibility to the dune fields include trampling and habitat disturbance by sight-seekers, eco-tourists, and various forms of recreational use of the dunes (e.g., dune buggies, motorcycles). It is not known if there are any to the species at the Pelly Lake, NT, location.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

A population of the Felt-leaf Willow is found within the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Wilderness Park.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

1 record(s) found.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for Multiple Species of the Athabasca Sand Dunes in Canada (2013)

    This management plan addresses a group of seven plants which are listed as species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), and which are found in the Athabasca Sand Dunes of northern Saskatchewan: Large-headed Woolly Yarrow, Athabasca Thrift, Mackenzie Hairgrass, Sand-dune Short-capsuled Willow, Felt-leaf Willow, Turnor’s Willow, and Floccose Tansy. The Athabasca Sand Dunes is a complex of active and stabilized dunes on the south shore of Lake Athabasca, in the 1925 km² Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park which is located in the northwest corner of Saskatchewan. These plants are endemic (i.e. found nowhere else) to the dune complex, with the exception of one reported location of Felt-leaf Willow in Nunavut, one reported location of Mackenzie Hairgrass in the Northwest Territories (both under review), and a few observations near to the dunes on the shores of Lake Athabasca.