Plant of the Week: Giant Pussy Willow

Pussy willows are named for their soft cat fur-like blooms that herald spring.
 

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that took root on the elevated rail tracks after the trains stopped running. The High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our Gardeners’ current favorites.

Extending over the pathway of the High Line are the delicate red branches of Salix chaenomeloides, or Giant Pussy Willow, with fuzzy silver blooms just emerging. Each individual bloom is actually a cluster of tiny flowers called a “catkin.” On the Giant Pussy Willow, these catkins will grow up to two inches in length, bearing resemblance to a rabbit’s foot, before finally losing their fuzz later in spring as the flowers mature.

The name “Pussy Willow” comes from an old Polish legend that goes like this: a mother cat’s kittens fell into the river while playing along the shore and a willow next to the river swept its long branches into the water to scoop up and save the tiny kittens. Since then, according to the legend, the Pussy Willow’s branches have sprouted tiny fuzzy buds where the kittens once clung.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
On the High Line between West 20th and West 22nd Streets.

PLEASE BE GENTLE
Help us keep the park beautiful for everyone to enjoy. Take plenty of photos, but please do not pick any of the plants or blooms.

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