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Vick, Albert F. W.
Salix discolor Muhl.
Pussy willow, Glaucous willow
Synonym(s): Salix ancorifera, Salix conformis, Salix crassa, Salix discolor var. overi, Salix discolor var. prinoides, Salix discolor var. rigidior, Salix fuscata, Salix prinoides, Salix sensitiva, Salix squamata
USDA Symbol: SADI
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Pussy willow is a narrow shrub or small tree to 20 ft. with multiple trunks and dark-gray, scaly bark. The familiar, silvery-gray, furry catkins appear before leaf emergence. Deciduous leaves are broad, bright-green and shiny. Many-stemmed shrub or small tree with open rounded crown; silky, furry catkins appear in late winter and early spring.
The large flower buds burst and expose their soft silky hair, or pussy fur, early in the year. In winter, cut Pussy Willow twigs can be put in water and the flowers forced at warm temperatures. Some twigs will produce beautiful golden stamens, while others will bear slender greenish pistils. The Latin species name refers to the contrasting colors of the leaf surfaces, which aid in recognition. Pussy willow catkins are the first willow catkins to appear each year and are recognized as a sign of spring. (Kershaw)
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Shrub Leaf:
Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar
, WY Canada: AB
, YT Native Distribution:
Nf. to B.C., s. to VA, KY,
& c. ID Native Habitat:
Marshy, low ground; stream banks; ditches
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Damp soils.
Conditions Comments: Short-lived and fast-growing, pussy willows should by cut back heavily every few years to encourage lots of vigorous new growth. This plant is susceptible to insect, disease, and wind damage and tends to sucker to the point of being invasive if given continuously moist soil.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Early season harvest for songbirds, waterfowl and small mammals
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Larval Host: Mourning Cloak, Viceroy
Willows are among the easiest of all plants to root from cuttings. Semi-hardwood or hardwood stem
cuttings and root cuttings will root readily in any well-drained media without hormone treatment. Propagation is also accomplished by sowing fresh, untreat Seed Collection:
Not Available Seed Treatment:
Not Available Commercially Avail:
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Decline in willow tree in West Virginia
June 15, 2008
I planted a willow tree about three years ago and it was progressing just beautifully with full leaves this spring in a nice green color. We staked it back about three weeks so it would grow straight...
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National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Delaware Nature Society
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2012-10-20
Research By: TWC Staff