N. Amer. Sylv. 1: 78, plate 21. 1842.
Shrubs, 0.8–4 m. Stems: branches gray-brown or red-brown, glabrous or hairy; branchlets gray-brown to dark red-brown, glabrous, puberulent, densely long-silky, or villous to glabrescent. Leaves: stipules absent, rudimentary, or foliaceous on early ones, foliaceous on late ones (apex acuminate); petiole 1.5–8 mm, glabrous adaxially; largest medial blade lorate, narrowly oblong, narrowly elliptic, narrowly oblanceolate, or linear, 30–133 × 5–20 mm, 3.4–8–15 times as long as wide, base cuneate or convex, margins flat, spinulose-serrulate or entire, apex acute, acuminate, or convex, abaxial surface glaucous or not, pilose, villous, or long-silky to glabrescent, hairs appressed or spreading, wavy, adaxial slightly glossy, villous to glabrescent; proximal blade margins entire or serrulate; juvenile blade reddish or yellowish green, densely villous abaxially. Catkins: staminate 18–48 × 5–13 mm, flowering branchlet 3–15 mm; pistillate moderately densely flowered, slender or stout, 22–58 × 4–9 mm, flowering branchlet 4–12 mm; floral bract (sometimes brown), 1.3–2.8 mm, apex rounded (sometimes truncate), entire or erose, abaxially hairy mainly proximally, hairs wavy. Staminate flowers: abaxial nectary 0.3–0.9 mm, adaxial nectary narrowly oblong, oblong, or flask-shaped, 0.4–1.2 mm, nectaries distinct; filaments densely hairy on proximal 1/2; anthers 0.55–0.7–0.9 mm. Pistillate flowers: adaxial nectary ovate, oblong, or flask-shaped, 0.4–1.1 mm, longer than stipe, nectaries distinct or connate and cup-shaped; stipe 0–0.7 mm; ovary obclavate or pyriform, glabrous, beak abruptly tapering to styles; ovules 13–22 per ovary; styles 0–0.14–0.5 mm; stigmas slenderly cylindrical or 2 plump lobes, 0.2–0.5 mm. Capsules 4–5 mm.
Phenology: Flowering early May-mid Jul.
Habitat: Riparian, floodplains, stream banks, subalpine meadows, coarse-textured substrates, silt
Elevation: 600-3100 m
Alta., B.C., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nev., Oreg., Wash., Wyo.
Salix fluviatilis Nuttall, long used for a Columbia River endemic (see 22. S. columbiana), is a rejected name.
Salix melanopsis forms natural hybrids with S. exigua var. exigua, S. sessilifolia, and S. sitchensis (R. D. Dorn 1998).