Shrubs of Wisconsin

Salix discolor Muhl.
pussy willow
Family: Salicaceae
plant branch leaf
glaucus underside
male aments female aments twig with bud

Salix discolor is generally assigned the common name of "pussy willow", but people have been eager to apply that name to any willow that flowers early in the spring in their neighborhood. The distinctive aments or "catkins" are a welcome sign of spring.

Willows are dioecious, which means that each flower has only male or female parts ( not both) and that each individual plant has only flowers of one sex. Therefore each individual plant can be said to be either male or female. There are many species of willow in Wisconsin (24) and their identification is often difficult. There is a good key to the willows of Wisconsin by George Argus (citation below) and the key to willows by E.G. Voss in Michigan Flora, Vol 2 is also very good, and is more easily accessible.

The leaves of Salix discolor are simple and alternate and the margins are either entire or coarsely and irregularly toothed, as in the photo above. The underside of each leaf is strongly whitened.

Argus George. W. 1965. Preliminary Reports on the Flora of Wisconsin. No. 51. Salicaceae. The Genus Salix--the Willows. Trans. Wisconsin Acad. 53: 217-272.

Voss, Edward G.1985. Michigan Flora. Cranbrook Institute of Science. Part II. Dicots (Saururaceae - Cornaceae). Bulletin 59.


known Wisconsin distribution


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