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What Is a Pussy Willow

What Is a Pussy Willow

What Is a Pussy Willow

A pussy-willow is a North American tree whose wood is used for flutes», as well as in small construction projects such as shingles and window sashes but is not a particularly strong wood. Its wood has a delightful smell, which is different from that of western red or gray oak. The wood is light, soft, and easily worked.Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox; Ruthenian, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Slovak, Bavarian, and Austrian Roman Catholics; Finnish and Baltic Lutherans and Orthodox; and various other Eastern European peoples carry pussy willows on Palm Sunday instead of palm branches. This custom has continued to this day among Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Romanian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ruthenian Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Kashubian Catholic and Polish Catholic émigrés to North America. Sometimes, on Palm Sunday they will bless both palms and pussy willows in church. The branches will often be preserved throughout the year in the family's icon corner.

Willow

In the 1971 book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, the character Imogene Herdman argues with a girl named Alice over which of them will play the Virgin Mary in their school's upcoming Christmas pageant. Imogene threatens to stick a pussy willow down Alice's ear where no one would be able to reach it, and says: "And it'll sit there and grow and grow and grow. So for the rest of your life, there'll be a pussy willow bush growing out of your ear."They're actually flowers just before they fully bloom. The soft coating of hairs acts as insulation to protect these early bloomers from cold temperatures. The species most commonly called pussy willow in the Northeast, Salix discolor, is a small, shrubby species of willow that can be found dotting wetlands and moist woods throughout much of North America. Most other willows make similar flowers, and since they’re among the very first to bloom, they’re especially delightful—they signal the last throes of winter and the brink of spring.

Most cut pussy willow stems are in a sort of time warp—dried at their peak fuzziness, and never allowed to fully flower. But if you keep fresh-cut pussy willows hydrated, you can see the whole flowering cycle and even the leafing-out process. Buy a healthy-looking bunch (look for flexible, greenish stems that don’t feel brittle or look shriveled), and place in a vase near a window, changing the water daily. You can add a little flower food if you have some.Watch for new flower buds to cast off the shiny brown bud scales that surround the flower. When the flowers mature, you will see scores of yellow stamens emerge to cover each catkin. A tiny clump of pollen stands at each end. Wait even longer, and you may also see pale green, strappy leaves unfurl from the leaf buds. At this point, your willow stems will be in full spring growth and will need to be planted in soil outdoors to root for an extended experiment. The flexible stems can also be woven into a wreath or recycled in the compost pile. (Source: www.bbg.org)

 

 

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