Pussy Willows in Snow

April 2, 2017

Yesterday’s April Fools snowstorm put down seven inches of wet snow on top of a still thick and stubbornly persistent snow cover.  While the daytime temperatures here are reaching into the high thirties and forties and tree buds are certainly beginning to swell, it still looks a whole lot like winter.

Except for one thing: pussy willow buds.

I spotted some in a low, wet patch of land near our house.  Silvery and soft, they are a very early spring flower, appearing this year ahead of the crocuses which need more snow to melt before they can make a showing.  It’s true that pussy willow buds are not flowers in the customary sense of the word.  They don’t have petals or the female reproductive parts.  The buds are the flowers of male plants of some willow species.  Over time the bud matures in the warmth secured by its kitten-soft covering and opens to become a miniature bottlebrush of pale green stamens.  Anyone who has ever brought home a spray of pussy willow, filled a jam jar or vase with water, and set the spray out to admire for a week or two knows of this stage of pussy willow maturation, and of the dusting of yellow pollen that appears as if by magic at the base of the jar. The opened flowers of the pussy willow have their charm, but there are enough pictures and stories from northern countries to make it clear that it is the first soft silver buds–the ones just appearing now–that bring us humans joy.

I too want to sleep
beneath a fuzzy cover of
pussy willow fur

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