Signs of spring

My hand holding a twig with fuzzy catkins on it.
Salix sp.

On my Sunday afternoon walk, I came across a small tree covered with little gray catkins just coming out on some of the twigs. We always called these Pussy Willows, presumably because the trees look like willow trees (Salix sp.), and the small emerging flower clusters, true to their name, look like small furry cats. This is the second native plant I’ve seen in bloom this spring.

As to what type of willow tree this is, I have no idea. Flora Novae Angliae states, “Salix is a difficult genus that displays tremendous phenotypic plasticity.” Meaning it’s hard to identify. Not counting hybrids, there are something like 19 species of willow that grow in Massachusetts, one of which is known by the common name Pussy Willow (S. discolor). But when I tried to follow the “Key for carpellate reproductive material” in Flora Novae Angliae, I got stuck at terms like “Decorticated wood” and “Ovaries glabrous.” If I spent enough time, I could look up all these terms and follow the key. But I think I’ll just call this Salix sp. until I learn more of the technical terms in botany.

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