The polar willow is one of the smallest willows in the world, and is typically found on the tundra. The polar willow is a dwarf shrub growing only up to 2-5 cm high, usually close to the ground, where temperatures are highest. The root system might develop only in the active layer of permafrost, which is one of the main factors responsible for lack of the trees on the tundra. The polar willow as an Arctic “tree” can form “forests” up to 1 m² large or even much larger.
The plant has circumpolar distribution. It is well developed in sites where snowfall protects it, but it is also common in all kinds of open ground. The polar willow is thought to a popular grazing food for reindeer.