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Salix caprea Select

caprea = goat  

Pussy Willow, Goat Willow or Big Momma Willow

This selection was supplied to Vermont Willow Nursery by Larry Smart of Cornell University and features stems that produce an extraordinary abundance of male flowers per stem (I counted 85 catkins on one stem in April 2, 2017), making it a wonderful cut stem producer! It was selected by a grower that specialized in cut stems for the Floral Market.  It makes so many flowers that there aren't many cuttings available on each stem, as the stems in the area of flower buds don't always have vegetative buds. It is much hairier than the species so naturally we wonder what the female parent had been up to? Perhaps a cross with Salix cinerea? It is a non-fussy plant that will grow just about anywhere that is moist, not wet. Must be in full sun to produce the most flowers! Hardy to Zone 3.

USES: ornamental shrub, coppice regularly to keep a steady supply of young shoots that provide the most flowers; bring cut stems indoors for early bouquets

The trial field of Cornell University's biofuel breeding program with Larry Smart on a rainy late March day. Their rows are spaced far apart to enable mechanical cultivation and harvesting!



Typical shoots of Goat Willow; densely hairy, crinkled leaves and wavy edges. Late October

Densely hairy stems and flower buds with the classic shape of Salix caprea. Late October

Details of the stems, flower buds and small stipules at the base of some leaf petioles.

Late October

Salix caprea opens its flower buds by splitting the scales down the middle.

Early April.

These are some of our plants in the nursery; 8ft tall and covered in flowers.

April 10, and still some lingering snow!

Catkins are a poppin' out of their bud scales.


Densely hairy stems and catkins with the classic shape of Salix caprea. Late October

Catkins at all the stages of development: from tight buds, just opening with a burst of silver hairs, stamens that are bright pinky-orange and finally the pollen explodes in a burst of yellow. Mid-April.

The pink stage in Mid-April

The orange stage in Mid-April

The golden-yellow stage in all its glory in Mid-April. Bees will find the pollen in the next day or two.

left: Here is something different: three catkins in a group. This willow just wants to produce as many catkins as possible, so it adds a couple of extra ones below the main catkin. I have only seen this occur on one other species and that was a native species on our property.


of Michael Dodge