Catkins

Blue Streak catkins

Blue Streak catkins

Mention willows and many people first think “pussy willows”. Usually people think of the large catkins that are produced in the spring on Salix caprea, S. cinerea, or S. chaenomeloides, but many of the willows produce attractive catkins. Willows are dioecious, which means that male and female flowers are born on different plants. In addition, depending on the species, catkins are produced before leaves (precocious), at the same time (coetaneous), or after the leaves have formed (serotinous). So it goes without saying that there will be a lot of variation in how different cultivars flower and their ornamental quality.

Sekka catkins

Sekka catkins

Sometimes you get a package deal like these catkins on this Japanese variety that has ‘fasciated’ stems. Other times the catkins are small and almost inconspicuous like the ones below.

Forbyana catkins

Forbyana catkins

For some gardeners, the catkins are the whole reason for having the willows. The catkins are just an extra benefit for us. There is nothing like a cool, sunny day in February or March with the catkins popping on the willows. A little later and a little warmer, the anthers will start to open and bees will emerge to visit the flowers. That’s when I realize I better get working and get the willows cut before they leaf out!  Right now I still have the time to admire the black catkins of melanostachys against the blue sky.

Salix gracilistyla var. melanostachys

Salix gracilistyla var. melanostachys

Share

4 thoughts on “Catkins

  1. throwing around some botany knowledge!
    what basketry willows native to northwest do you cultivate?

  2. Hi Steve
    I’ve heard about the black catkins of the melanostachys but never seen them. Beautiful.
    How is the melanostachy variety suited for weaving? Heavy, light, flexible, does it produce lots of side branches or just at the top?

  3. Hi Lene. Melanostachys is a nice ornamental but not useful for basketry. Not quite as easy to root from cuttings as others either in my experience. It’s lovely in a vase this time of year. I’ll try to get another photo later when the red anthers open up.
    Hey Frank. Botany knowledge? Not really. I have this great book on Willows by C. Newsholme published by Timber Press. You know I don’t really have any NW natives. I keep considering propagating them. I usually tell people to go to the local Conservation District plant sale to buy native willows for habitat projects. Up here Hooker’s willow and Sitka willow are good. Which willows do you have in the Siskiyous?

  4. Timber Press publishes some nice books on nature.
    Some willow species in Siskiyous:
    S.boothii- Booth’s willow
    S. scouleriana- Scouler’s willow
    S.lutea- yellow willow
    S. exigua- narrowleaf willow
    S. lucida- shining willow

Comments are closed.