In northern Canada shortfruit willow is distributed from the Yukon Territory to adjacent British Columbia and east to the Hudson Bay. In the contiguous United States shortfruit willow occurs from the Canadian border southward in the cordilleras to Utah and Colorado.
Shortfruit willow is a much-branched, low-growing, and often prostrate shrub typically between 1 and 3 feet (0.3-0.9 m) tall. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants in 0.7- to 2-inch-long (1.5-5 cm) catkins that persist throughout the summer and often through the following winter. The fruit is a two-valved capsule.
Shortfruit willow flowers in June and July and the seed is dispersed in July and August.