for Spring 2020
Salix gracilistyla ‘Mt Aso’
gracilistyla = slender style
Japanese Pink Pussy Willow
Mt Aso (Aso-san) is the largest active volcano in Japan
and amongst the largest in the world.
Selected in Japan by selected in Japan by Dr. Tsuneshige Rokujo, this pinkish-red male selection forms a spreading shrub 6ft x 6ft with handsome bluish-gray leaves that are silky underneath. The twigs are covered with a grayish-tan fuzz (indumentum) and in September the pink flower buds start to develop. We counted a branch with 23 flower buds ready to open next spring-imagine that show! In Northern Vermont the catkins start to swell in late January and open in February and March, depending on the temperature. ‘Mt Aso’ will even open for Valentine’s Day if cut and brought inside a few days before the event! They make a wonderful alternative to red roses, as you can grow these yourself for your beloved! The flowers are as soft and silky as they look and open about 1in long. They gradually expand as they mature and when the pollen is fully exposed they are closer to 2in long.
It’s a non-fussy shrub that will grow almost anywhere in full sun; in sandy, average or moist soil (as long as it is watered regularly in areas of low rainfall). Hardy to Zone 4.
USES: As an ornamental shrub; coppice every year to maintain a steady supply of young stems that produce the most flowers. Cut stems can be brought inside from late January on and should be placed in 3-4in of water until the flowers expand. Then remove the water and the dried stems will hold the pussies for months.
Pink Pussy Willow after 3 days indoors from tight buds! January 2012.
Perhaps the most exciting willow we offer!
A photo taken in our Winter Garden in early March. Simply lovely!
In 2014 I learned from a taxonomist that this is not a Salix chaenomeloides selection, but belongs to Salix gracilistyla; a totally different Japanese species.
Hence we have corrected our mistake!
A second cultivar is offered by some nurseries: 'Mt Asama'. However this name is not verified in Japan, therefore it is probably an error by nurserymen in the USA.
After the pink-thing, catkins turn dark gray, then pink, then yellow
The foliage of 'Mt Aso' is exceptionally attractive. Pinkish at first then a rich deep green with prominent veins. The undersides of the leaves are felty bluish-green and soft as a baby's.... Below May 30.
'Mt Aso' in January! Brilliant color in winter even before the flowers open.
Photo by customer Patty Bristol!
'Mt Aso' in September! Flower buds developing well before leaf fall, promising color all winter. See photo at right!
below: stages of development of the male catkins.
A 5-year plant by our woodshed. We coppice it every year after flowering because it produces so many flowers that it produces bare stems where the flowers were; also we get more flowers after coppicing!
After the male catkins have done their pink thing, the flowers turn back to silver gray.
The anthers burst through the fur and turn the flowers pink again until they explode with golden pollen! Here is a backlit shot of a group in the nursery. Mid-April.
Above: catkins at their peak pollen moment. Mid March
Below: weeks later. Mid-April
In 2015 after the coldest winter we have experienced in Vermont everything bloomed late.
Snow still on the ground on All-fools day. Still 'Mt Aso' is blooming, although not in its pink mode yet; too cold to show its true colors!
Long straight stems in the nursery in midAugust.
Photos taken on the same day showing the difference between shoots in shade (left) and full sun (right).
The leaves are darker and the flower buds much redder. Late-September.
"Here's a how-do-you-do..."
At left is a photo of the flower bud of Salix gracilistyla, at right 'Mt Aso'!
See the curl on the top of the species? Not present in 'Mt Aso'.
So what, you might say? To a taxonomist that's significant!
I am pursuing leads in Japan about the mysterious origin of this cultivar and it is quite possible that 'Mt Aso' is a hybrid of Salix gracilistyla and Salix caprea (S. xleucopithecia)! Stay tuned, if that interests you!
This rangy bush is an example of what happens if you don't coppice 'Mt Aso' every year.
It gets tall and straggly with catkins only on the previous-year's shoots, mostly at the top.
of Michael Dodge