Salix discolor  

discolor = two colors

(referring to the leaves that are green on one side and white on the underside)

American Pussy Willow

A shrub or small tree to 25ft native to Eastern North America and West across Southern Canada to the Rockies, including our own property in Vermont. Flower buds are almost black and the showy silver pussy willows appear before the leaves and make great cut stems. The leaves are shiny dark green above with a smooth texture and velvety-white beneath. It's a showy ornamental plant with young red stems that turn almost black in Winter. Grows well in almost any soil including wet areas; I even have seen them growing in streams and ponds. Hardy to Zone 3.

USES: ornamental and late winter cut flower.

Salix discolor is one of seven native willows on our property.

There may also be hybrids between some species—that will take some careful study. Great when the wind blows with the flashy undersides of the leaves showing!

Below is a group of photos of female catkins as they develop in late April.

Male flowers with pollen starting to show, contrasting well against the dark stems.

Below are shots of the foliage at different stages of maturity.

Silver catkins of the American Pussy Willow make a great display in the garden or vase.

  photo courtesy of Frank Hoffman,



Below is a series of male catkins opening in late April

This plant is in a ditch along our 2-mile dirt road, Ridge Road. It's a very prolific producer of male catkins as pou can see! I'll take cuttings from this plant before the farmer cuts it down as he is want to do! Late April.

Distribution of Salix discolor in the US

Map used by permission of Dr John Kartesz & BONAP



Present in County

Present in State

Present but rare

In autumn next year's flower buds develop, bright red at first

and almost black before they open in spring.

The selection on the right is much hairier than other specimens and retains it's stipules longer. It may have something to do with it's a coppiced cultivated plant in the nursery whereas the other is an older wildling!

Below is the male plant from which the cuttings  to ship to customers for years!

Overwintering flower buds are dark red to almost black and in late winter pop out of their case with the familiar silver catkins.

Do willows mind wet feet? Most don't, including S. discolor as seen here in the Holden Arboretum, Ohio.

Trunks are typically gray and easy to tell from the diamond pattern of S. bebbiana trunks.


Salix discolor sometimes develop a single trunk (usually from seedling trees) and at other times a group of trunks; the latter is usually from a stem that breaks off and grows from several buds.

A great display in a moist area near Fisherman's Pond in the Holden Arboretum in Ohio. Early April.

This plant was seen in Camden, Maine with the harbour behind. It had obviously been coppiced regularly and had huge stipules at the bases of the leaves. Much larger than normal. Possibly a hybrid? Late August


of Michael Dodge