The things we grow up with and take for granted!
Recently a visitor to our house asked, while gently petting some pussy willows in a vase on the table in front of her, "What's the deal with these fuzzysticks?"
Who does not know about pussy willows?
Someone who grew up in the urban southwest, that's who. And if we were to visit Arizona we might well ask, "What's the deal with these pricklesticks?" Or something like that. We know very little if anything about the habits of cacti having never been farther southwest than Oklahoma.
A dinner table discussion of the biology of catkins followed. Yes, that is what the buds of salix discolor and some other plants such as poplar and aspen are called. Our in house biologists took on the topic, but we still had a few questions. This article gives much more information about a traditional harbinger of spring that we typically think of in only that way, and not as the reproductive part of a common, but beloved native shrub.
Sorry to disappoint, but pussy willows don't turn into live kittens. Thankfully that reality hasn't kept artists from creating charming depictions of that possibility.
I know a little pussy, Her coat is silver grey;
She lives down in the meadow,
Not very far away.
Although she is a pussy,
She'll never be a cat.
For she's a pussy willow,
Now what do you think of that?