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Salix discolor

Pussy Willow /

Silvery flowers, resembling 1" long bottlebrushes, bloom in late winter. The flowers provide pollen for native bees very early in the season and are conspicuous because they bloom on bare stems, before leaves appear. Finches, grouse and cardinals find the flower buds tasty. Several different butterflies use the blue-green leaves as a larval food source. If planted in dense clumps, this multi-stemmed shrub provides good cover and nesting sites for a variety of birds.


  • Provides pollen for native bees
  • Food source for game and song birds
  • Host plant for a large variety of butterflies
  • Provides cover and nest sites for a variety of birds
  • Host plant for mourning cloak, viceroy moths and butterflies
  • Cut branches can be forced to flower for winter arrangements

Homeowner Growing and Maintenance Tips

Plant in full sun. Grows well in most soil, including wet, poorly drained areas. Good for low areas where other plants won't live. Will spread by suckers and colonize an area. Can be severely pruned after flowering.

20-25 Feet


18-20 Feet

USDA Hardiness Zone 2-7

Native Range

Swamps and other wet, open ground; Newfoundland to Alberta south to Montana, South Dakota, Missouri and Delaware.

Native Trivia

The pussy willow, like all willows, provides a compound called 'salicin' which is similar to the active ingredient in most over-the-counter painkillers. Native North Americans extracted it from the bark and roots for a painkiller and anti-fever medication.

"Grosbeaks, grouse and many species of butterflies find this plant irresistible."

Characteristics & Attributes

Plan Sub Group
  • Medium to Tall Shrubs
  • Sun
  • Wide soil tolerance
Soil Moisture Preference
  • Average
  • Moist
  • Wet
Attracts Wildlife
  • Beneficial insects
  • Butterflies
  • Songbirds
Bloom Time
  • Early Spring
  • Winter
Habitat Collection
  • Butterfly
  • Songbird
  • Wet Sun
Native Habitat
  • Riparian, wetland
Foliage Color
  • Green
  • Accent
  • Bog, water garden
  • Erosion control
  • Hedge, screen
  • Mass plant
  • Naturalizes
Native to
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming