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Salix caprea
Goat willow

Culture: Adaptable to a wide variety of soil conditions, goat willows are at home nearly anywhere, although they prefer moist sites in full sun. They are fast growing and respond well to regular renewal pruning that helps to keep the habit more uniform and maximizes the growth of long flowering branches.

There are few problems with this species. Some branch dieback may occur in the cold winters from Chicago northward. Rabbits are also fond of the young bark when food becomes scarce in snow-covered winters.

Usage: This plant has a very short season of interest - the week in which the early spring catkins begin to open. It offers little interest the rest of the year. Florists cut the branches with partially expanded flower buds in spring. It is used as a specimen large shrub or small tree or part a large shrub border.

There are a number of related species, as follows:

Salix gracilistyla - Rosegold or Pink Pussy Willow

Size: 5-10' high

Hardiness: Less hardy (zone 6a USDA)

Flowers: The emerging catkins are pink to reddish pink in color.

Leaves: The 2-4" leaves are gray-green in color.

Salix discolor - Pussy Willow

Size: 10-20' high

Hardiness: Zone 2b USDA

The true Pussy Willow, Salix discolor is a native plant in wet low-lying parts of the upper 1/2 of the eastern U.S. and Canada. It has smaller catkins, smaller brown-black winter buds and very glaucous (nearly bluish-white) leaf undersides. Salix discolor is more susceptible to stem canker and is inferior to Salix caprea as a landscape plant but has merit as a native plant for use in naturalizing wet areas.

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