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Pussy willow

Early spring flowers of pussy willow.

Pussy willow is a short-lived, fast growing, native tree or large shrubby shrub with a rounded crown. In early spring the silky furry catkins open before the leaves appear to signal spring is on the way.

 

Botanical name:

Salix discolor

All common names:

Pussy willow

Family (English):

Willow

Family (Botanic):

Salicaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen,
  • Windbreak

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Tolerances:

  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early spring,
  • mid spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Round,
  • Weeping

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Size & form

A small erect tree to large shrub reaching 15 to 25 foot high and 12 to 15 foot wide
Often confused with goat willow (Salix caprea).

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun in moist, well-drained soil. Tolerant of wet soil once established.
Prune in late winter to early spring.
Cut back to ground every 3 to 5 years to maintain size
Can be pruned into a hedge
Shallow-rooted can develop surface roots with age
Short-lived tree

Disease, pests, and problems

Mildew, blights, leaf spots, cankers, borer, aphids,
leaf and stems can be messy

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Deer, wet soils, black walnut toxicity

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2
Common in marshy and swampy areas

Bark color and texture 

Slender greenish-red buds are fuzzy cap-like scale
Stems are gray-brown

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, elliptical to oblong, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide
Entire or slightly toothed margins, dark blue green above, and pale to white beneath

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Dioecious (separate male and female plants),
Male and female flowers (catkin) are  1 inch long, fuzzy, silvery gray
Willows are wind pollinated

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Small brown capsules in clusters

Location of Salix discolor (Pussy willow) at the Arboretum