pussy willow

(Salix discolor)

Conservation Status
pussy willow
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Pussy willow is a widely recognized, small, deciduous shrub or shrubby tree rising. When a shrub it rises on many stems, when a tree it rises on a few trunks. It often forms clumps. In Minnesota mature trees are usually 10 to 20 tall and up to 12 in diameter at breast height, though individuals can reach 27 in height. They typically live 20 to 50 years.

The crown is open and rounded.

The branches are alternate.

The bark on young trees is grayish-brown, tinged with red, and smooth. On mature trees the bark is thin, light brown to gray, shallowly fissured, and scaly.

The twigs are stout, shiny, and dark reddish-brown, with scattered orange dots (lenticels). When young they are hairy, becoming hairless as they age.

The buds are reddish-purple, shiny, egg-shaped, flattened, and taper to a long point. They are covered with a single cap-like scale. The vegetative buds are about ¼ long, the flower buds are about long.

The leaves are alternate, oblong to narrowly elliptic, firm, 2 to 5 long, and ½ to 1½ wide. They are usually less than 5½ times as long as wide. The blade tapers at the base to a to 1 long leaf stalk, and may be either blunt or pointed at the tip. There is often a pair of small, leaf-like appendages (stipules) at the base of the leaf stalk. Young leaves are reddish and hairy. The upper surface of mature leaves is bright green, shiny, and hairless, with raised veins. The underside is whitish and hairless or sparsely hairy. The margin is untoothed or has shallow, irregular teeth, especially above the middle. In the fall the leaves turn yellow.

Male and female flowers are separate trees. Both flowers are cylindrical catkins on a short stalk with tiny, leaf-like bracts at the base of the stalk. When immature they are densely covered with silky hairs. They are fully developed before the leaves appear. The female catkin is ½ to 1 long and greenish with dark brown scales. The male catkin is ¾ to 1½ long, fuzzy, silvery or white with dark brown scales, and has 2 stamens with yellow anthers. The flowers are pollinated by wind.

The fruit is a small, brown, densely hairy, cylindrical, ¼ to ½ long, long-beaked capsule, containing many seeds. The capsules are attached to 2 to 3 long seed catkins.




10 to 20


Flower Color




Similar Species


Bebb’s willow (Salix bebbiana) buds are blunt. The leaf upper surface is dull green and wrinkled, not shiny and smooth. The lower surface has whitish hairs and prominent, meshing veins. The margins are somewhat rolled under.


Wet. Swamps, wet meadows.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Malpighiales (nances, willows, and allies)  


Salicaceae (willow)  
  Subfamily Salicoideae  
  Tribe Saliceae  
  Genus Salix (willows)  
  Subgenus Vetrix (sallows and osiers)  
  Section Cinerella  



Salix ancorifera

Salix conformis

Salix crassa

Salix discolor var. overi

Salix discolor var. prinoides

Salix discolor var. rigidior

Salix fuscata

Salix prinoides

Salix sensitiva

Salix squamata


Common Names


large pussy willow

pussy willow














A comparatively short and stout, narrow or prolonged tip on a thickened organ, as on some fruits and seeds.



A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.

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    pussy willow   pussy willow  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos


    pussy willow   pussy willow  


    pussy willow   pussy willow  

Female Catkins

    pussy willow   pussy willow  


    pussy willow   pussy willow  

Persistent Large Stipules

    pussy willow      



  American Pussy Willow
Andree Reno Sanborn
  American Pussy Willow  

Salix discolor




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Other Videos
  Pussy Willows in March with John Latimer
Now Watching KAXE

Uploaded on Mar 23, 2010

Did you know there are 18 different species of willow shrubs in MN? Did you know a pussy willow is male OR female? Did you know they come in a variety of colors? Did you know you can make willow whistles? Here's the latest in our continuing series Phenology Videos with John Latimer, this time on Pussy Willow:

  Thousands of bees pollinating in pussy willow tree (Salix discolor)

Published on Apr 26, 2014

Next to my house I heard a faint buzzing noise, I look up into the tree and it was a majestic scene of thousands of different kinds of bees collecting pollen.




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June 2023

Location: Lake Shore

pussy willow  
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