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Pussy Willows Peeking Out

3-27-19 pussy willow_U1A5143Nothing announces the arrival of spring more than willow flowers peeking their silver heads out of the bud scales which have surrounded and protected them all winter. What we call pussy willows are, in fact, the soft, silvery hairs that insulate the emerging spike of flowers, or catkin, within a willow flower bud. Pussy willows are dioecious, meaning there are both male plants and female plants. A male willow has only male catkins; female willows have only female catkins.

An individual willow catkin consists of all male or all female flowers. The first catkins to emerge in the spring are usually males. The hairs, or “pussies,” that emerge when willow buds first open trap the heat from the sun and help warm the center of the catkins, where the flowers’ reproductive parts are located. This trapped heat promotes the development of the pollen (or in female flowers, the ovules) of the flowers deep within the hairs. Eventually the reproductive parts of the willow flowers – the stamens and pistils – emerge, but until they do, we get to enjoy their silvery fur coats.

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14 responses

  1. Rema Boscov

    I love your posts, but oh dear, wrong spelling ….peek rather than peak.

    >

    April 1, 2019 at 7:56 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    ….they are so pretty….and Honey Bees love them.

    April 1, 2019 at 8:39 am

  3. I have been enjoying your posts for quite a while but just bought your book “Naturally Curious Day by Day”. As an avid nature watcher, and a person that has been working on keeping records day by day for a few years now, I am very impressed with both the text and the photos in your book! Thank you for sharing your observations in book form.

    April 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

    • Thank you so much, Dean. I’m delighted you are enjoying Day by Day!

      April 1, 2019 at 1:30 pm

  4. kathryn

    When my son was little, h called them “willy pusses.” And that’s what they’ve been called in our family ever since!

    April 1, 2019 at 9:03 am

  5. aamazonwoman

    Should be “peeking,” not “peaking.”

    April 1, 2019 at 10:33 am

  6. June Albright

    On Mon, Apr 1, 2019 at 7:05 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “Nothing announces the arrival of spring more than > willow flowers peaking their silver heads out of the bud scales which have > surrounded and protected them all winter. What we call pussy willows are, > in fact, the soft, silvery hairs that insulate the emerg” >

    April 1, 2019 at 12:44 pm

  7. Alice Pratt

    Actually: “if you don’t ‘peek’ you won’t see them at their peak’…that way there’s no ‘nit-picking🤣🙈 and no matter…whichever way you ‘peek’ or ‘peak’ they remain beautiful.

    April 1, 2019 at 3:00 pm

  8. Kitty Leonard

    Wow how beautiful all the detail. I am hoping as spring progresses that you will show the flowers as they emerge and mature on both male and female plants

    April 1, 2019 at 7:34 pm

  9. Char Delabar

    Thank you Mary I knew none of this except the visual and name.🤗

    >

    April 1, 2019 at 8:01 pm

  10. David Fedor-Cunningham

    Willow flowers are very important as a food source for early pollinators. Female flowers offering nectar, males offering pollen. I believe we have 6 species of willows native to Vermont. I would urge people to plant those that are native and both sexes to benefit the greatest number of insects that are drawn to these early flowers. All Salix (willows) are extremely easy to start from cuttings pushed down in the moist soil of spring.

    April 2, 2019 at 9:19 am

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