Meadow willow is a low-growing, clumped shrub with slender, upraised stems.
Leaves are simple, alternate, 1¼–3 inches long, ½–¾ inch wide, lance-shaped, with the tip pointed. Edges finely toothed with gland-tipped teeth, but teeth do not occur at the base of leaf.
Bark is gray-green or red-brown, becoming dark brown and either smooth or flaky.
Twigs are red-brown or yellow-brown, nearly smooth or with whitish hairs; pores small, barely noticeable, yellow-orange.
Flowers April–June, male and female flowers in separate catkins in axils of leaves.
Fruits June–July, erect catkins, ¾–1 inch long, with conical capsules having silky hairs; seeds cylindrical with long, silky hairs at base.