Few small trees or large shrubs are as easy to grow as the pussy willow (Salix discolor). When growing a pussy willow tree, you’ll find care of the small tree is minimal when it is planted in the right place. Learn where and how to plant a pussy willow tree and the ease in care of pussy willows. Growing a Pussy Willow Tree One of the first trees to break bud in late winter or early spring, learning how to grow pussy willows provides the garden with unique interest from the furry catkins, which are soon followed by whitish, yellow flowers, when much of the landscape still sleeps in dormancy.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing A Pussy Willow Tree: Learn About The Care Of Pussy Willows https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/pussy-willow/growing-pussy-willows.htm

pussy willow tree

A common species native to Europe, western Asia and central Asia, Salix caprea is also known as the pussy willow, goat willow and great sallow.

pussy willow shrub

Identification

This deciduous small tree or large shrub typically reaches a height of 26–33 ft, sometimes 39 ft. The flowers are soft, silky catkins produced in early spring before the appearance of its leaves. The plant is dioecious, meaning male and female catkins are found on different plants. Male catkins mature to yellow when loaded with pollen and female catkins mature pale green.

The fruit is a small capsule containing numerous minute 0.2 mm seeds in fine, cottony hairs. These fine hairs help to disperse seeds which require bare soil to germinate.

The scientific name as well as the common name, 'goat willow', probably derive from the first known illustration of the species found in Hieronymus Bock's Herbal (1546) which shows the plant being browsed by a goat. Historically, the species was also widely used as a browse for goats, to which Bock's illustration may refer.

There are two varieties of pink pussy willows: S. c. var. caprea, found in lowland regions throughout its range, and S. c. var. sphacelata, found in high altitudes in the mountain ranges of central and northern Europe.

Ecology

S. caprea is found in both wet and damp environments such as riverbanks and lake shores, and also in drier sites where ground disturbances expose bare soil.

Hybrids with several other willow species are common, most notably with Salix cinerea (S. × reichardtii), Salix aurita (S. × multinervis), Salix viminalis (S. × smithiana), and Salix purpurea (S. × sordida). Populations of S. caprea often show hybrid introgression.

Unlike almost all other willows, pure specimens do not root easily from cuttings. If a willow cutting does root easily, it is probably a hybrid with another species of willow.

The leaves are a food source for several species of Lepidoptera, and are also commonly eaten by browsing mammals. They're very susceptible to the midge gall, Rhabdophaga rosaria, which forms camellia gall on S. caprea.

bloomed out pussy willow

Cultivation and uses

The cultivars used in the garden are the male, S. caprea 'Kilmarnock' and female, S. caprea 'Weeping Sally'. The height of these cultivars is determined by the height at which the graft is made. Plants can also be grown from greenwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are difficult to root.

Both tannin and salicin can be extracted from willow bark. The tree is not a good source for timber because the wood is brittle and makes very violent sounds when burned.

Salix discolor, the American pussy willow, is often grown for cut flowers. In Scandinavia, goat willow cuttings are used to make willow flutes (click to hear a willow flute). In Hungary and Slovakia, newly-opened catkins are used in the same way as olive branches on Palm Sunday.

pussy willow buds