Canadian Spring & Weeping Pussy Willow

Flowering of the Weeping Pussy Willow signals the onset of spring in our garden.

The Salix Caprea ‘Pendula,’ commonly known as the Goat Willow or Weeping Pussy Willow, which belongs to the Caprea genus of flowering trees. It is also known as Kilmarnock, as the tree was first commercially sold in 1853 by Thomas Lang of Kilmarnock, Scotland.

This tree is grafted – a Weeping Pussy Willow grafted on top of a regular Pussy Willow trunk. The tree grows pendulous branches or weeping branches and can reach up to 8 feet, while the spread of the tree can also be around 6 feet.

The weeping pussy willow is referred to by poets and philosophers as the tree of enchantment. It relates to all that is feminine – dreaming, intuition, emotion, enchantment, healing and revitalisation. The willow’s flexibility symbolises resilience and inspires us to move on with life.

Fuzzy nubs start to appear along the branches, even before the leaves sprout. It is to increase the chances of pollination by wind and the leaves do not get in the way of the pollen riding the wind.

These nubs are flowers that sprout just before they fully bloom. The soft coating of hairs acts as insulation to protect these early bloomers from cold temperatures. Most other willows make similar flowers. The tree derives its name from these soft silver tufts that resemble tiny cats’ paws, feeling so much like cat fur.

Even in full bloom, willow flowers hardly look like flowers at all. They have neither any petals nor any fragrance. Such flowers are called Catkins, derived from the old Dutch word Katteken meaning a kitten. Alder, Birch, Beech, Hazel also produce catkins.

Pussy willows are Dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants. Only male plants produce the fuzzy flowers. The flowers on female plants look more like greenish hairy caterpillars. The male catkins begin to look yellow when the pollen develop on the tips of the anthers.

Catkins usually don’t rely on pollinators to spread their pollen. Instead, they release it into the wind, where it may or may not land on the female flower parts. To hit their targets, the catkins produce a large volume of pollen. Such a massive quantity of pollen released in the atmosphere results in many humans developing allergies and breathing difficulties during this period.

These trees thrive both in sunny sites and sites with partial shade. This willow will need some sun in the afternoons. These trees are tough and are easy to maintain. The tree needs a stake until the roots are well anchored.