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Salix gracilistyla  

gracilistyla = slender style  

Rose-gold Pussy Willow

A widely spreading shrub with long graceful arching branches. Young stems are green and are covered with fine silky hairs. Catkins are produced in masses before the leaves in March-April and the 2in male flowers are particularly showy: silver–gray at first, then bright red as the anthers appear, turning orange then yellow—hence Rose-gold Willow. The handsome gray-green leaves start silky above, glaucous beneath. Native of Japan, Korea, China, this gift from the East is a great garden plant. It has produced many hybrids and cultivars and these are described in a Scientific Journal published in 2016 (see note lower on the page!). Hardy to Zone 4.

USES: ornamental shrub as a focal point, by pools or ponds; great cut flower stems in late winter.

glaucous = bluish-green

These male catkins start silver–gray, then pink/red and finally to yellow when the pollen appears. That's a tiny bee and even tinier fly searching for nectar that the male flowers use to attract pollinators!

Easy to see why it's called the Rose-gold Pussy Willow.

Male catkins: top is fully mature with pollen showing;

the lower third the red pollen sacs are still red and will open soon!

At the base of the top flower is an overwintering bud scale still attached.



"Clarifying affiliations of Salix gracilistyla Miq.

cultivars and its hybrids"

Yulia A. Kuzovkina1, Michael Dodge2 and Irina V. Belyaeva3

1Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-4067

2Vermont Willow Nursery, 1943 Ridge Road North, Fairfield VT 05455-5631

3Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE, UK

In 2015 Michael joined forces with two eminent Russian Salicologists to solve issues surrounding taxonomic problems with Salix gracilistyla and what has been offered as S. chaenomeloides in North American and European horticulture. The results of this study were published in 2016 by Horticultural Science Magazine. We hope that this will be the first of many such investigations into the Salix nomenclature issues in Public Gardens and the Nursery Industry.

The leaves are tinged with rose at first, then turn clean and green with fuzz (indumentum) on both sides of the leaves. Plants are compact growers if coppiced  

A lovely specimen at the Chicago Botanic Garden near the Waterfall Garden. April 4, 2014

Catkins have burst out of their flower buds and soon anthers will change the color to rose, then gold.

Below are different stages of development after first opening, shot at the same time as above!

Upper sides of the leaves are bright green and silky to the touch from the fine hairs

Undersides of the leaves prominently veined and  glaucous (blue-green). Stipules at the base.

above and below: Male catkins in different stages of development

Catkins at all stages after the anthers appear: closed, opening, fully open and spent!

In late September flower buds start to form in the axils of the leaves. These will turn redder in late Autumn. Note the hairiness of the stems and the large leaf-like stipules at the base of the leaf petioles. The reflexed tip at the top of the flower bud is quite different to those of its cultivars, so I am starting to believe that their may have been some philandering with another willow(s) to produce the difference.


of Michael Dodge