Salix reticulata grows in alpine tundra, fens, sedge meadows, and turfy places in the mountains.
Salix reticulata is an alpine species that is found in the park at elevations 275 m to 1787 m with an average site elevation of 1008 m. S. reticulata prefers moderately steep sites with an average slope angle of 13 degrees. In Denali, this species seemed to slightly prefer north-facing over south-facing slopes.
Salix reticulata is an incompletely circumpolar species with an arctic-alpine distribution, occurring in Europe, and across northern Eurasia and northern North America (but absent from Greenland). In North America, S. reticulata ranges from Alaska, across northern Canada to Labrador and New Brunswick and south into the mountains British Columbia and western Alberta but does not reach the lower 48 states. In Alaska this species occurs essentially statewide (usually in hills and mountains). In Denali, S. reticulata occurs park wide in suitable habitat on both sides of the Alaska Range.
Collett (2004) documented various insects on S. reticulata such as a sawfly of the genus Pontania, eriophyiid mites, and a tussock moth, Orgyia antiqua.
S. reticulata is dioecious and insect and wind pollinated. Seeds have attached hairs to aid in wind dissemination. It also readily spreads vegetatively, forming large mats.
Catkins and leaves appear together right after snow melt.
Salix reticulata is a common creeping dwarf willow shrub with very characteristic, rounded net-veined leaves. This species occurs in moist to wet areas from meadows to tundra, most frequently in or near the mountains. Plants grow only 3-10 cm tall. Branches are red- to yellow-brown, and hairless. Leaves are round, long petioled, with deeply embossed veins, dark glossy green above and pale green to whitish beneath. Willows are dioecious (individual plants produce either male or female flowers), the flowers highly reduced and borne in catkins. Catkins develop on terminal branches late in the summer. Capsules are hairy and reddish in color, splitting open by two valves to release many tiny seeds with tufts of white hair. The round leaves with deeply impressed veins distinguish this dwarf willow from others in the park. Some people can initially confuse the leaves of Salix reticulata for the leathery leaves of Arctostaphylos rubra or A. alpina, but this species has rounder leaves, and catkins instead of flowers or berries.