Ward's willow, or Carolina willow, is a shrub or small tree with spreading or drooping branches, forming an open, irregular crown.
Leaves are alternate, simple, 2–7 inches long, narrowly lance-shaped, tip pointed, base narrowed on young leaves, rounded on older ones; upper surface bright green; lower surface white to silvery; young leaves with matted hairs; margin finely toothed; stipules (leaflike structures by the leaf stalks) up to ¾ inch across, with toothed edges.
Bark is reddish-brown to gray, checkered, breaking into closely flattened scales.
Twigs are slender, yellowish- to reddish-brown or grayish, more or less hairy, becoming smooth.
Flowers April–May, male and female flowers in separate catkins, borne on separate plants; catkins slender, narrow, cylindrical, yellow-green.
Fruits June–July, capsule about ¼ inch long, egg-shaped or conical, long-pointed, brown when mature; stalk of capsule short, almost absent; seeds tiny with silky hairs at the base that are 2–3 times as long as the seed.
Similar species: Twelve species in the genus Salix have been recorded for Missouri. Ward's willow is one of the most widespread.