Pussy Willow: Salix discolor 

Pussy Willow, one of the first to bloom

Pussy Willow is a highly economic and ecologically important plant. Come late winter, floral markets fill up with its stems which are adored for their almost animal like fuzzy catkins. As mammals we love the fuzz! We love furry things because their cute and they awaken our nurturing side.

Many plants produce hairs, scientifically known as trichomes. In the case of the pussy willow, one of the earliest blooming plants, these hairs serve as a form of insulation. Pussy willow grows naturally in swamps or along bodies of water where high humidity can produce lots of frost that would otherwise kill early season, unprotected flower buds. 

Trichomes are found widely in the plant community. Many desert plants use them as protection from heat, while others use them to defend against insects and herbivores like deer, which dislike the feel of the hairs on their tongue and have a hard time digesting them. Some plants even snare insects with their trichomes, like the carnivorous honeydew, which secretes a thick, sticky like substance on tip of each hair, entrapping their victims. 

Once the trichomes appear on pussy willows their pollen soon follows. Like red maples, this pollen plays an important role in supporting early season pollinators and since both the red maple and pussy willow enjoy wet areas, we recommend planting them together. Just keep in mind, pussy willow and most willows require full sun, so avoid tree canopies. 

 

 

 Pussy willow with Red Winged Black Bird

Pussy willow with Red Winged Black Bird

 Pussy willow catkins beginning to bloom

Pussy willow catkins beginning to bloom


GROWING INFO

Height: 6.00 to 12.00 feet

Spread: 6.00 to 12.00 feet 

Bloom Time: March to April

Sun: Full sun 

Water: Medium to wet

Growing zones: 3 to 8

 

 

ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE

  • Early flowers provide forage for pollinators
  • Leaves are often browsed by deer and moose
  • Important wetland species
  • Provides nesting habitat for water fowl and song birds
  • The willow family (Salicaceae) supports 456 verities of butterflies and months (Lepidoptera)

The number of  butterflies and months the willow family supports is incredible. Here's three of our favorite!

 Purple Spotted Blue butterfly 

Purple Spotted Blue butterfly 

 Mourning Cloak Butterfly 

Mourning Cloak Butterfly 

 Viceroy Butterfly (which mimics the Monarch butterfly)

Viceroy Butterfly (which mimics the Monarch butterfly)