Arctic Willow - Salix arctica
|Arctic willow, Salix arctica; note the fuzzy male catkins.|
The Salix genus is taxonomically complex and represented by more than 22 very similar species in the Arctic. However, three species – arctic willow, S. arctica, net-veined willow, S. reticulata, and least willow, S. herbacea– are easily identified.
General Information and Anatomy
Though lacking brightly coloured flowers, the arctic willow still attracts plenty of pollinating insects because of its plentiful supply of nectar within its catkins. They are also well adapted to life in the Arctic because their transparent "fuzz" acts like tiny greenhouse windows. When the sun is shining, female catkins soak up the rays and warm to 4 or 5oC above the outside temperature. Male catkins, in spite of having more "fur", fall short by about 1 C.
Arctic willow is widespread throughout Canada's Arctic and is the farthest reaching species in the willow family, growing abundantly at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.