A large, whimsical shrub famous for its fuzzy flowerbuds early in the year, Pussy Willows are also one of the earliest plants to bloom in spring, making them extremely important for (and popular with!) pollinators such as honey bees. These plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate plants. It is the male flowers that produce the iconic silky gray buds that later expand into open white catkins literally abuzz with early-spring pollinators (female flowers are smaller and greener). The leaves of this plant are dark green and handsomely glossy with a silver shine on the back, brightening to a cheerful yellow in the fall. Tolerant of both salt and clay soils, these shrubs grow readily in swamps, thickets, and along streambeds, and host a number of butterfly and moth species, including Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus), Viceroys (Limenitis archippus), Red-Spotted Purples (Limenitis arthemis), Luna Moths (Actias luna), Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa), Eastern Commas (Polygonia comma), Dreamy Duskywings (Erynnis icelus), Green Commas (Polygonia faunus), Milbert's Tortoiseshells (Aglais milberti), Polyphemus Moths (Antheraea polyphemus), Spring Azures (Celastrina ladon) and Striped Hairstreaks (Satyrium liparops).
10-20 feet tall
Plant Hardiness Zones: 2a-7a
Native Range: ME south to VA, west to CO, including OK but excluding NE and KS. Continues up through WY and ID, extends up through Canada into all provinces except NV and YK. Rare in MD, VA, WV, MO, OK, CO, and ID, considered extirpated in KY
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