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Old 07-09-2011, 06:31 PM   #1
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Default Salix discolor - Pussy Willow

I planted my first Pussy Willow tree today. I'm hoping Viceroys and Mourning Cloaks use it as a host plant. My yard had been without a willow till today.

Any tips on maintaining it for wildlife? I see cutting it severely back each year is recommended, but do these folks have an eye on its wildlife value or its beauty??

I planted it in a naturally formed depression that sometimes fills temporarily with water after a heavy rain. I purchased a porous mulch ring for it too, as it is growing in what is presently lawn area.

Is it a good attractor of butterflies?????????
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Old 07-09-2011, 06:45 PM   #2
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I have no real experience with willows but have been interested in them for years and have read up when possible. From what I have read, most willows are actually stimulated to grow when cut back severely. People practicing the craft of basketry have used willow as a sustainable crop for thousands of years, harvesting each spring through coppicing. Here is the website for a nursery in Canada that specializes in all sorts of Salix varieties: Salix (Willow) Varieties - Retail & Wholesale Nursery - NA They have some very cool information and links for using willows for living fences and other structures.
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Old 07-09-2011, 07:01 PM   #3
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I have what looks to me to be a rather mature pussy willow growing in our back yard. I'm assuming it was planted by a previous owner and is not naturally occurring. I've often wondered if it is the native pussy willow or a French variety purchased from a catalogue or something. I have yet to cut mine back and enjoy the look of it as a mature shrub. I did, however, cut off most of the suckers this year to give it a more attractive appearance. My guess is that the recommendation of cutting it back is to encourage long suckers which could be harvested for flower arrangements when they bloom the following spring. Mine seems to do just fine without this special treatment.

Good to know it is a host plant to two species of butterfly.

I have also planted a black willow...and want to plant what I know as "sand bar willow" as well.
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:09 PM   #4
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Pussy Willow is good plant that doesn't need pampering. I've had good luck with it even in dry areas, It's very easy to propagate too. Just find a flexible stem that you can bend to the ground and place a rock or stake to keep it in contact with the soil.

Mound some soil over the stem and in a year you'll have a clone you can transplant or leave it there to grow.

If you have an area that you'd like to establish a wildlife corridor it's a good plant that you can plant sparsely and use the stem method to fill in with clones.

It can also be trained as a single stemmed tree; Just pick a leader and prune the competing branches. Soon you'll have a pussy willow tree that some birds may find more attractive to nest in than a shrub.

Since pussy willow will compete well you could have some grown as trees which grow about 20 feet high and shrubs that fill in the under-story. A nice area for birds to raise their young.
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Old 09-03-2012, 07:34 PM   #5
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Our native willows are under appreciated. They are host plants for many butterflies; they provide excellent early sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators; and they provide nesting sites for many birds.

Kudos for planting some.
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Old 09-03-2012, 07:53 PM   #6
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I hadn't realized about the pollen and nectar source until this spring when I got some photos of bumblebees on the yellow, pollen-covered catkins.

There is a pussy willow in our yard from before we moved in--I'm hoping it is the native S. discolor. I've also planted a black willow...and would like to add what I think is "sandbar willow"...but I'm not sure. There is a beautiful willow that I remember from my childhood and teen years...at that time I looked it up and have been calling it "sandbar" willow ever since. Recently, I think I discovered that "sandbar" willow is from the West...not sure though. I'd love to add another willow or two, but I'd like them to be natives--getting a locally native one shouldn't be hard as they can be rooted.
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:00 PM   #7
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There is a 'Sandbar Willow' native to PA (Salix exigua, aka Salix interior):
PLANTS Profile for Salix interior (sandbar willow) | USDA PLANTS

It's also one of the willows that's easy to identify:
Quote:
The clonal growth form and very long and narrow leaves with the teeth spaced far apart on the margins are distinctive.
Shrubs of Wisconsin: Salix exigua, sandbar willow
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Old 09-04-2012, 04:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWisc View Post
There is a 'Sandbar Willow' native to PA (Salix exigua, aka Salix interior):
PLANTS Profile for Salix interior (sandbar willow) | USDA PLANTS

It's also one of the willows that's easy to identify:
Shrubs of Wisconsin: Salix exigua, sandbar willow
.

Thanks, NEWisc. Nice to know it is native to PA. As a kid, I found a grove of mature sandbar willow that I really loved....and I always wanted to recreate a similar stand on my own property. I'm guessing they could've been 20ft. tall...what seems to be their mature height--I know they were fairly tall.
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