Thursday, April 22, 2010

Here Kitty Kitty

Now is the time of the year when we love to add pussy willow branches to many of our floral arrangements and because we also have a good source of locally grown plants, we are blessed with some beautiful specimens.  One woman recently stopped in with huge arm loads of the funky looking contorted pussy willow variety which was quickly snatched up for some fun, contemporary arrangements.

Pussy Willows get their quaint name from the buds, called catkins, which is a take on the dutch word for kitten (pussy)...they do remind me of a soft kitten tail!  Also, historically pussy willow branches were carried by some East European peoples on Palm Sunday instead of palms because of the scarcity of palm leaves in the northern regions of Europe. Even here in North America, native Indians used the willow species to make medicinal brew since the plants secrete a substance similar to some of our over the counter analgesics.  Don't try this at home!

We are not the only ones who find pussy willow desirable.  A couple of weeks ago, while on the hunt for migrating waterfowl at a lovely wildlife preserve, I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole grove of these charming bushes.  These particular willows are the native American Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) and like their willow tree cousins are a moisture loving plant.  Sure enough they were flourishing amongst the cattails and duckweed in a marshy area of Spring Valley Wild life area, just north of Waynesville

The ones here are the "plain janes" of the family, but provide a host of benefits for many wild life.  Besides providing an early pollen source for our native bees and being a host plant for numerous butterfly larvae; the buds are quite tasty to several bird species such as Goldfinch, Grouse and Cardinals.  The shrubs themselves provide nesting sites for our avian friends as well.

Soon the furry catkins will pollinate, the stems will sprout leaves and we will no longer be quite as enamored with these fun harbingers of spring, but until then, here kitty kitty...

Field notes from the "B-Lister"

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