Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) is a familiar and popular willow in the United States. Willows, a large and varied group of plants, grow as trees, shrubs or groundcovers. They share many virtues: graceful, flexible branches, interesting growth habits, and seasonal ornamental interest. They are all deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall. Some offer colorful fall foliage. Some have colored twigs that provide winter interest. Some types, called "weepers", have long pendulous branches. All offer welcome early spring foliage or fuzzy fruits. While willows are not long lived, they are beautiful and easily grown.
Size: Pussy willows quickly grow from 20 to 35 feet. Typically they will add 4 to 6 feet to their height every year. They reach maturity in 5 years, rarely surviving much beyond 35 years. They have a relatively narrow habit, spreading 1/4 to 1/3 their height.
Foliage: Pussy willows have dull leaves that are lighter underneath. They are elliptical in shape, having toothed edges from their middles to their tips. In the spring they are a light lime green, turning medium green over the summer to pale yellow-green in the fall just before they drop in October.
Flowers: Like all willows, pussy willows have separate sex trees. Their flowers, the familiar pussies, are called catkins. They are about 1 inch long and furry with a silver-gray color. They appear very early in the spring, late February or early March, before leaves emerge. By mid-April they have turned greenish-yellow and formed seeds with tufted hairs. These are released into the wind and are coveted by songbirds, waterfowl and small mammals.