2017 Spring Pollen and Nectar Source: Pussy Willow

As spring approaches and the days grow longer, more plants are starting to bloom, including pussy willows. These plants usually bloom here in Northern California between February and March. There are several species of this plant but Salix discolor is the most commonly found. I usually find these trees near water though they are also used as ornamental plantings. There is a tree in the image below in bloom.

Willow starting to bloom.

Once you get closer to the trees, you can start to see the catkins, which are unique on this plant as opposed to the alders which are also in bloom now (For more information see Ben’s Blog from last week). There are two pictures below showing the difference between the two catkins. Here you can see the anthers of the pussy willow which don’t appear to have much powdery pollen on them because of the rain and wind. The dioecious trees produce both nectar and pollen, only the male produces pollen. They can produce a considerable amount of nectar but usually it is too cold for the bees to really work the plants. I’ve read that they can produce 100-150 lbs. of nectar and 1500 lbs. of pollen per acre, but have not seen this in any operations. The pollen has 20-25% crude protein, about average in blooming plants, but helps when nothing else is really blooming at the time.

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Alder Catkins

Pussy Willow Catkin.

A compelling point about the pussy willows is that they are easy to propagate; you can cut off new growth and place it in water for several weeks until roots are visible and then the cutting is now ready to plant. I have not tried this, but I would think rooting hormone would speed up the process. I may attempt to propagate some this spring. I will post photos if everything works out

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 61 post in this blog.

I currently work out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA as a Crop Protection Agent. I received my B.S. in biology from Delaware Valley College, PA. There I attained a majority of my entomological knowledge from Dr. Chris Tipping and Dr. Robert Berthold. After graduation, I was an apiary inspector for 2 years at the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. In my third year there, I still inspected some colonies but I mainly focused on The Pennsylvania Native Bee Survey (PANBS) where I pinned, labeled, entered data and identified native bees to genus species. Leo Donavall assisted me in learning the basics on positive Identifications of the native bees. Around the same time I began working on coordinating kit construction and distribution for the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey. I was also fortunate to conduct many of these surveys with fellow co-worker Mike Andree and Nathan Rice of USDA/ARS throughout California. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, working to assist beekeepers in maintaining genetic diverse colonies resistant to parasites while reducing the use of chemical treatments in colonies. The BIP Diagnostic Lab at the University of MD is in an integral part of this process by generating reports in which we can track change and report to beekeepers vital information in a timely manner which may influence their treatment decisions.

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  • Carol Scott

    I live in Cornwall UK, regarding propagating willow: I have found that simply cutting twigs and even small branches off the main tree and sticking them straight into the ground they ‘take’ very quickly. Two years ago I severely pruned a willow and forgot to clear the pile of prunings (thick branches down to twigs) I found them later, nearly all had started growing, having put roots down along their length!