The crack willow is widespread throughout most of Europe
, extending northward as far as the middle of Sweden
. Like the white willow it grows mainly beside rivers and brooks in moist situations but, unlike the former, occurs also at higher elevations- up to 600 or 700 metres. It grows more slowly, and attains heights up to 25 metres. The trunk is frequently crooked, the bark of young trees being smooth and grey-green, the buds pressed close to the twigs. The lateral branches break off easily at the junctions, hence its name. The leaves are lustrous-green above, blue-green beneath. The dioecious flowers, borne in catkins, appear in April
, and the capsules release the small downy seeds in early June
The crack willow is marked by vigorous propagation by sprouts. Often growing alongside brooks near villages are the so-called pollarded willows, the result of cutting-back the trunk and of repeated cutting of the branches over a period of 2 to 5 years. In practice, new individuals are propagated by cuttings. The crack willow interbreeds easily with the white willow and other willows and therefore one is more likely to come across hybrids than the pure species in the wild. The wood is used for cricket bats, and the young shoots for making baskets.