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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Salix discolor Muhl.)

Pistillate catkin of a pussy willow
Staminate catkins of a pussy willow

WILLOW FAMILY (Salicaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: An erect, deciduous shrub usually 2-5 m. high. The alternate leaves are generally elliptic, entire to slightly toothed, whitened beneath, and are without hairs (may have sparse hairs beneath); usually less than 5.5 times as long as wide. Large, roundish stipules are present. Twigs are stout, reddish to dark brown, and lack hairs (although new twigs may be hairy). Plants are unisexual. The pistillate catkins are 3-12(14)cm. long while staminate catkins are 1.5-5 cm. long. The fruit is a densely hairy capsule. In flower during May and June.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Pussy willow typically occurs in shrub-carrs, inland fresh meadows, the edges of wooded swamps, and along shores. It is usually the first willow to flower in spring. The twigs are browsed by white-tailed deer, moose, and eastern cottontail. Various willows (Salix spp.) can be recognized in winter by insect galls that may be shaped like pine cones. Willows (Salix spp.) in general hybridize, sometimes making identification difficult.

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Swink and Wilhelm (1994).

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