Salix cinerea

Grey willow

Also known as:

Pussy willow, shrub willow, grey sallow

Family: Salicaceae

Origin: Eurasia

Close up of Grey Willow branch showing catkins and buds.
Also known as pussy willow and introduced from Europe. Tall tree up to 7m tall.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Aotea — Eradication
  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Whole region — Sustained control

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Deciduous shrub or small tree < 7 m tall. Stems are grey/green and hairy or red/dark purple and smooth. Leaves are obovate and < 7 x 3.5 cm. Catkins are cylindrical and appear before leaves.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell grey willow. As grey willow is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant grey willow within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any grey willow on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.

Auckland Council will control grey willow at all sites within the Aotea/Great Barrier Island group where it is known to occur.

If you see grey willow anywhere on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group, please report it to Auckland Council at


Wet habitats, wetlands, riparian margins, ponds, lakesides, wet areas behind coastal dunes.


Seeds dispersed by wind. Vegetative spread from suckering and stem fragments, dispersed by water.

Impact on environment

Forms dense thickets, causing blockages, flooding and structural changes in waterways. Affects native vegetation through competition, shading and altered hydrology.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Do not attempt to undertake control of this species on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group. Please report to Auckland Council if seen on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group.

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: All parts.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with glyphosate gel. Cut material must be removed or it will regrow. Or cut stump and spray freshly cut base with 250ml glyphosate green per 1L of water. Cut material must be removed or it will regrow.

Basic Growsafe certified: Drill and inject trees with 500ml glyphosate per 1L of water if safe to do so. Drill 18mm holes (tangentially angled downwards) in a spiral up the trunk.

For 50mm stems drill one hole. For 100mm stems drill two holes. For larger stems drill holes 150mm apart.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray with 150ml glyphosate green per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Safety notes

Large trees must not be drilled that are closer than 1.5 times the height of the tree from paths, walkways and property.

Trees over 4 metres in height should be treated and then removed by a qualified arborist.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Grey Willow trees growing close together.
Grow in wetland, stream edges, ponds and lake sides. Grow very close together and shade out native plants.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of Grey Willow stem end showing new leaves.
Branch stems can be grey/ green and hairy giving the tree its name. Other trees can also have red, smooth stems.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of Grey Willow seed heads and mature seed floss.
Seeds are distributed by wind. Many thousands of seeds can be produced each year.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of Grey Willow seeds about to disperse.
Plants can spread from suckering roots as well as seed. Broken branches can root in soil and grow into trees.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Grey Willow tree showing smooth red/ purple stems.
New branches can be red/ purple in colour and smooth. Trees are deciduous and lose their leaves in winter.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Grey Willow branch tip showing fresh spring growth leaves.
Trees form dense thickets which can black drains and streams. Large tree trunks can change the course of flowing water.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Close up of underside of new Grey Willow leaves.
Undersides of leaves are a lighter colour. Leaves blowing in the wind can appear grey from afar.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow
Young Grey Willow tree with end of season foliage.
Fast growing tree that can take over an area quickly. May require digging out to remove completely.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow