Photo of Pussy Willow

Salix discolor

Pussy Willow

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Pussy Willow has attractive early spring blooming “furry” flowers resembling a tiny cat’s paw.

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Pussy Willow is a medium to large multi-branching deciduous shrub or small tree. It features soft “furry” catkins resembling a tiny cat’s paw. These silver “paws” are actually flowers. The “fur” insulates and protects the flowers on this early spring bloomer. This dioecious species has male and female catkins that grow on separate trees. Male trees produce showier, fuzzy silver catkins that bloom earlier than catkins on female trees. Petalless male flowers consisting of green stamens and yellow anthers house the pollen. The female flowers are less conspicuous with greenish-yellow styles and stigma. Flowers are wind pollinated. Pussy Willow is a wetlands plant. Its native habitat includes wet meadows, wet woods, swamps, lakesides and stream banks; it is occassionally found growing in upland, drier areas. It prefers rich loamy soil with a high pH (alkaline). It prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Roots will sucker and spread. Prune hard to grow as a hedge. It is easily propagated through stem cuttings. For best results, plant in wet areas of your yard with consistently moist soil. Deer may browse the branches, and birds and squirrels may eat the buds. This is a fast growing, yet short-lived plant. If you have the right conditions, Pussy Willow will provide much delight and beauty in your yard.

Wildlife Value: Songbirds and waterfowl eat the buds. Host plant for caterpillars of Mourning Cloak and Viceroy butterflies.

Plant Details:

Plant Type: Shrub, Tree

New Jersey Native: Yes

Bloom Times: Spring

Bloom Colors: Yellow, Green

Deer Resistance: None

Attracts Pollinators and Wildlife: Birds

Salt Tolerance: Unknown

Hardiness Zone: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b

Physiographic Region: All Regions in NJ

Soil Characteristics

Soil Type: Loam, Organic, Sandy

Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist, Wet

Soil pH: Neutral, Slightly Alkaline

Light Needs of Plant

Optimal Light: Full Sun

Light Range: Full Sun, Partial Shade

Water Needs of Plant

Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist, Wet

Drought Tolerance: None

Size and Growth Rate

Height: 6 - 15 ft

Spread: 4 - 12 ft

Growth Rate: Fast