Crack Willow

©Brian Eversham

Crack Willow

©Brian Eversham

Crack Willow

©Brian Eversham

Crack willow

Scientific name: Salix fragilis
So-named because its gnarled trunk can split as it grows, the Crack willow can be seen along riverbanks, around lakes and in wet woodlands. Like other willows, it produces catkins in spring.

Species information


Height: 20-25m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Crack willow is a large willow tree found along riverbanks, around lakes and in wet woodland. It is often planted alongside rivers and dykes to stabilise their banks, and is usually pollarded to allow light through to the water. These pollards can be contorted and gnarled, and often so full of crevices that other species start to grow from them, such as Ash and Holly. Crack willow is so-named because its trunk can grow so fast that it can split open under its own weight.

How to identify

The trunk of the Crack willow is often gnarled and cracked trunk. A regularly pollarded tree, it has long, dark green leaves that are glossier than those of the White Willow, with more jagged teeth along the edges.



Did you know?

The Weeping willow is a cultivated hybrid between Crack willow and a Chinese species. This distinctive tree, with its long, drooping branches, famously features in the 'Willow Pattern' of 18th century ceramics, which is likely based on a Chinese legend of star-crossed lovers.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.