Pussy Willow

Blooms- April

Description

Pussy Willow
Male Pussy Willow Flowers

Pussy Willow, is the common name for many species of shrub and small tree willows around the world. The soft fuzzy flowers are one of the first signs of spring. Pussy Willows are cherished in all northern areas as a reminder that spring is returning and winter will soon pass. Stems are often cut in late winter and brought inside and forced to bloom in a vase while the snow is still flying outside.

These trees are spreading open shrubs or small trees that are hardy in zones 4 to 8. Pussy Willows will grow to 6′ to 15′ tall and 4′ to 12′ wide as a large shrub or to 30′ when trained as a small tree. They thrive in medium to wet soils but, will do poorly in dry soils.

They are cherished for their early spring blooms which begin to appear in March and April. Their odd name comes from the furry soft male flowers or catkins that form in early spring. These flowers resemble the fur of a young kitten.

As these flowers open, the yellow stamens appear. These are the pollen producing structures of the male flowers. This pollen is very important to bees of all kinds. For honeybees in particular, this pollen along with lengthening days signal the queen to begin laying eggs and building brood numbers for the spring.

Pussy Willows are a trouble free plant. They are tolerant of deer and can live with Black Walnut trees. To maintain them as a shrub, they can be cut back to the ground every 3 to 5 years. This may seem drastic but, it is good for the willows and removes any dead wood and dense growth that shades the lower branches. To train as a small tree, select a single or multiple trunks and remove all others. Then remove lower limbs to train it to be more tree like.

2 gallon trees are 2′ to 4′ tall

Black Pussy Willow

Black Pussy Willow
Black Pussy Willow

The Latin name is Salix gacilistyla “Melanostachys”. This is a lovely and unique Pussy Willow. The catkins or male flowers begin as a dark black soft fuzzy Pussy Willow flower. As the flower matures, it gets larger and the color changes to a silver black that is striking in appearance. The stamens that bear the pollen that is so good for our bees and other pollinators, begin to show with a deep red color. As they open they turn an orange, golden color. This is a very decorative Pussy Willow that makes a great early spring cut flower for arrangements. Hardy in zones 4 to 8

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Pussy Willow
Male Pussy Willow flowers

This is our native Pussy Willow. It is attractive and hardy. Like all Pussy Willows, it is somewhat deer resistant. Many species of moths and butterflies caterpillars favor the leaves of willows this one included. This one is good for insect diversity. This tree prefers a moist soil environment. Height can be up to 15′ Hardy in zones 4 to 8

 

 

 

 

Giant Pussy Willow

Giant Pussy Willow
Giant Pussy Willow

Also known as the Japanese Giant Pussy Willow. The Latin name is Salix chaenomeloides. In Japan it is known as Salix Bakko. Enough with the name game here. This is a stunning Pussy Willow. The catkins are truly giant averaging 2″ long and up to 3″ long. These burst from oversized red buds that form the previous year and show off all winter long. This is one of the larger Pussy Willows growing to 20′ tall if left to itself. It of course can be pruned and trained as you see fit. This makes a spectacular cut flower that can be forced during the winter months. The big flowers make lots of pollen for the bees and other early season pollinators. Foliage is medium green on top and silvery green below making it attractive all year. Hardy in zones 4 to 8.

 

 

 

 

 

Jade Pussy Willow

Jade Pussy Willow
Jade Pussy Willow

I must be honest here, I don’t know much about this one. The catkins are a soft green and very attractive along a green stem. It provides a unique color as a winter cut flower.  Otherwise, it seems to be a vigorous healthy tree. If I learn more I will add it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Pussy Willow

Purple Pussy Willow
Purple Pussy Willow

Another one I don’t know much about. This one is a good dormant cut flower. Its highlight is its light purple bud sheathes that cover the soon to open purplish grey catkin flowers. The foliage is slender and a dusty, silvery grey/green. Very fine twigs will make for a light airy arrangement. Open flowers are good for early pollinators.

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Pussy Willows

Black Pussy Willow, Salix discolor, Giant Pussy Willow, Jade Pussy Willow, Purple Pussy Willow