Plant of the month: Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

I'd like to introduce a new journal post segment: Plant of the Month!

Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall, that is native to North America and found throughout Canada and the United States. The genus name, Salix, comes from the Latin word for willow and the species name, discolor, refers to the plant's leaves having a different colour on the upper and lower surface. Willows are an important source of food and shelter for various insects, birds, and mammals. It serves as an early source of nectar and pollen for pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, as it blooms in early spring before many other plants. It grows in wetlands, swamps, and along streams and rivers, as well as in upland areas. They are easily identifiable by their distinctive fuzzy catkins, which are soft and furry to the touch. Willows are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. The male catkins are long and slender, while the female catkins are shorter and rounder. They have long, lance-shaped, narrow, toothed leaves that are two-toned, with a dark green upper surface and a grayish-green underside.

Willow trees have multiple uses in Indigenous cultures. The branches are easy to bend and are used for making lodges, baskets, nets, fishing traps, hunting tools, and art. Willow is also used for drying meat and creating dream catchers. The bark and roots have medicinal properties and can be used to make tea that reduces muscle pain and headaches, and inflammation. The bark contains a compound called salicin which is similar to the active ingredient in modern aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid.

There are approximately 30 native species of Salix in Alberta, with the Pussy Willow being one of the most common and widespread. Helpful things to look at when identifying willows are the size or the tree/shrub, the leaf shape and presence or absence of hair on the leaves, the time of flowering compared to the time of leaf emergence, the presence or absence of stipules, the colour and morphology of bracts, and the presence or absence of a powdery coating/appearance of the leaves and/or branches. Photos of the leaves, catkins, and plant as a whole are helpful for identifying Willows, although differentiating between species can be difficult and can sometimes involve using a microscope.

If you have additional knowledge/information about willows and how to identify them, or good resources on willows, please feel free to share!
A Guide to the Identification of Salix in Alberta

Publicado el abril 16, 2023 11:29 TARDE por jdo77 jdo77

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Another early spring plant to note are Prairie Crocus/Prairie Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla nuttalliana). Both of these plants are very important to support our early spring pollinators! You'll find that they are already starting to bloom around the city! My colleague Cris found some Prairie Pasqueflowers in Bowmont Park just yesterday! I saw a few not quite in bloom at Nose Hill Park a couple days ago and have seen a couple other Prairie Pasqueflower observations made on iNaturalist at Nose Hill Park this spring.

Publicado por jdo77 hace 10 meses

Nicely done!

Publicado por beespeaker hace 10 meses

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