Montana Tree Profiles – Pussy Willows

It is really a misnomer to speak of pussy willows as if they are a single species, though it does show the reason that the scientific name is important. In the mountains of Montana, the pussy willows we have are Salix discolor, sometimes called the American pussy willow. Almost any species of willow that is small can, has been or is called pussy willows. Because of that, there are pussy willows in North and South America, Europe and Asia. They just aren’t usually the same species. Still, they are similar in appearance and I’m focusing here on Salix discolor. Pussy willow in general This pussy willow is found throughout the northern half of the United States and into Canada, and from coast to coast. While it is usually classified as a tree and it can grow up to 25 feet tall, it more often is much smaller. Pussy willows are extremely hardy (withstanding temperatures well below zero), fast growing and they require a large amount of water for growth, so they are commonly found on the banks of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. That makes them numerous in the mountains of Montana. In fact, willow branches or ‘switches’ are often used by campers for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in camp. Part of the reason is that the wood is soft and flexible when it is green, so the branches don’t break easily, unless they are dry. Appearance Pussy willows have leaves that are up to four or five inches Continue Reading →

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