February 21st, 2012
Willows and Signs of Spring
Posted by Sharkey
Even though it’s been a rather mild winter, Francesca and I are antsy for spring to arrive. It’s still February, but if you look hard enough, there are signs of spring in many places around the farm. The other day, I fired up the engine of the Kawasaki, I went and found Francesca paying a friendly visit with the Pomeranian geese, and then the two of us set off to find some of those signs.
1 Ah, what a nice day for a drive around the farm. However, it feels a bit brisk compared to all of the mild weather we've been having. Now, where has Francesca gone and run off to?
2 Here I am, Sharkey! I was just paying a visit to our resident Pomeranian geese. You know how much I like to bark at those honkers! Where are you off to? I'll drive, if you like.
3 Thanks for taking the wheel, Franny. I want to inspect this grove of weeping willows. They begin to take on a golden glow when spring is approaching.
4 Drive a little further so we can get a better look.
5 Weeping willows are considered to be harbingers of spring, due to the light color of the wood, how easily the branches sway in the gentle breeze, and how early the light green wispy leaves form.
6 The Japanese have always prized the willow's delicate leaves and consider them to be the perfect match for the loveliness of their pink cherry blossoms in the spring.
7 Franny, the weeping willow is in the Salix family and they form flowers, called catkins, which are produced in the early spring. Do you know what else produces catkins? Start driving! Photo credit: http://blog.alientimes.org
8 Head on over to the wetlands.
9 Franny, as you know, the wetlands are down in that low area, and yes, there are a lot of critters in there. However, it's also where Martha has planted a grove of pussy willows, also in the genus Salix.
10 The catkins appear long before the leaves and before they come into full flower, the catkins are covered with a soft fur, just like our feline housemates! And that's why they're called pussy willows.
11 I read on Martha's blog the other day that this variety is Salix chaenomeloides, commonly known as the giant pussy willow or the Japanese pussy willow.
12 Pussy willows, like weeping willows, produce a medical compound, called salicin, which is used to make over the counter pain relievers! Native Americans used the bark and roots as painkillers and anti-fever medicines!
13 Franny, here's another variety called Salix discolor. This is also known as true pussy willow and it's the variety that most people are familiar with.
14 As with all willows, pussy willows require full-sun and lots of water to grow well, and that is why Martha chose the sunny wetlands for her grove.
15 Wow, Sharkey! I really appreciate your vast knowledge on the subject willows. Didn't I hear that if you cut a branch and stick it in the ground, a new shrub will grow? Amazing!
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