Salix fragilis is a tree to 20 m tall, to 1 m diameter, winter buds sticky; bark thick, deeply fissured, twigs smooth or slightly hairy, erect or spreading, stout, dull-green to dark red, very brittle at base, stipules small or none.
Leaves alternate, stalk 0.7-2 cm long, blade 7-12 cm long, 1.5-3.5 cm wide, narrowly lance-shaped, tip long-pointed, base wedge-shaped, dark green above, green to somewhat waxy-pale below, bearing glands at leaf base, (Petrides 1988), margin more coarsely and distantly toothed than that of S. alba, 4-6 teeth per cm of margin, tooth tips glandular.
Flowers dioecious, in catkins 4-8 cm long, on a stalk 1-3 cm long, above 2-5 small leaves, stamens of male flowers 2, insect and wind pollinated.
Fruit dry, conical, 0.4-0.5 cm long, hairless. Opening to release hair-covered seeds adapted for wind dispersal.
Wetland status: OBL.
Frequency in NYC: Occasional.
Habitat: Wet, open, disturbed areas.
Notes: Generally attacked by same insects and fungi as S. nigra and S. discolor. A host tree of the Asian longhorn beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis (see Norway maple). Recent taxonomic work indicates that most of the plants keyed out as S. fragilis in our region, are probably hybrids of S. fragilis and S. alba, called S. x rubens (Steven Glenn, personal communication).