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We are in debt to our trees...

Updated: Mar 17, 2023


I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

a nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

‘The Majesty Oak,' part of Fredville Park at Nonington, Kent, UK


Abbotts Mill Nature Center added a new pump and water fountain to their frog pond this week. No sign of the frogs, yet. Too cold, I think


What Are Pussy Willows, Anyway?

This time of year, fuzzy “cat’s paws” start to appear along the branches of Pussy Willows. These soft silver tufts—as well as the plant itself—are named for their resemblance to tiny cats’ paws, and they feel so much like fur that young children often wonder if they are animals instead of plants. What are those little nubs? Are they seeds? Fruits? And why are they fuzzy?

Pussy Willow catkins just before blooming - Abbotts Mill Nature Center

They're actually flowers, just before they fully bloom. The soft coating of hairs acts as insulation to protect these early bloomers from cold temperatures. The species most commonly called pussy willow in the Northeast, Salix discolor, is a small, shrubby species of willow that can be found dotting wetlands and moist woods throughout much of North America. Most other willows make similar flowers, and since they’re among the very first to bloom, they’re especially delightful—they signal the last throes of winter and the brink of spring.

Pussy Willow in bloom at Abbotts Mill Nature Center

Even in full bloom, willow flowers hardly look like flowers at all. They have no petals or showy colors. Nor do they have any fragrance. Such flowers are called catkins, also named for cats, in this case for their tails (from the old Dutch word for kitten katteken). Many other trees and shrubs, such as birch and beech, also produce catkins.

Catkins usually don’t rely on pollinators to spread their pollen. Instead, they simply release it into the wind, where it may or may not land on the female flower parts. In order to hit their targets, the catkins must produce a tremendous amount of pollen. (Wind-pollinated trees like these are the culprits of many a spring sneeze.)

Pussy willows are dioecious, meaning there are both male plants and female plants. Only male plants produce the fuzzy flowers. Home gardeners may be disappointed if they wind up with a female tree, but the flowers on female plants are equally funky—they just look more like greenish hairy caterpillars. Look for both blooming over the coming season. By Ashley Gamell - Brooklyn Botanic Gardens - March 3, 2017

DID YOU KNOW? Another name for the Pussy Willow is Glamorous Willow. The Pussy Willow at Abbotts Mill Nature Center can be found right in front of the nature center, just behind the restrooms. Please don't break off any branches.

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