P is for… Pussy Willow

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These delightful branches of pussy willow were on display at Columbia Road Flower Market when I visited in April. I adore these branches; they are a real sign of spring for me - and for many others I discover upon doing a spot of research.

The silk-like buds that cover the branches appeal to the Chinese apparently, who use them as a major display at Chinese New Year.  In Northern and Eastern Europe and in America they are often used as a replacement for palm leaves (a practical issue rather than aesthetic, I think – palms don’t grow naturally that far north) on Palm Sunday.  In Poland, it seems, the pussy willow is a part of their lively Easter Monday (Dyngus Day) celebrations, when boys throw water over girls they like and hit them with pussy willow branches.  A strange seduction method, if you ask me!

The pussy willow has uses beyond decoration and spanking.  Willow branches have long been used for weaving baskets and furniture, and even coffins.  Back in the eighteenth century, and Oxfordshire man used ground willow bark to cure rheumatic pain and this eventually led to the development of aspirin. A more recent use is in biomass burning to generate electricity, for example at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.  

The term pussy willow is actually used for a number of willow trees at this time of year – any that have this soft silver fluff before the catkins develop their green colour.  Later in the year, once the fluff vanishes, they just go back to being known by their normal names, such as goat willow and grey willow.   We are likely to suffer a bit of a shortage of willow in the UK this year: willows grow in wet ground, by rivers and lakes, but the massive floods this year have proved to much for many of them.  In the Somerset Levels  at least one willow farm was completely devastated after sinking below water.  

I’ll now just leave you to enjoy their beauty.

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Columbia Road Flower Market, in East London, is open every Sunday, no matter the weather.  The only exception is Christmas Day when it happens to fall on a Sunday.  The flowers on display obviously vary by season, but you can always be assured of a vast selection of plants and cut flowers.

Linked to Tagged PI Heart Macro, Sundays in my CityABC Wednesday and Alphabe Thursday.
Updated September 2014.
This entry was posted in Alphabet Challenges, Easter, Trees and plants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to P is for… Pussy Willow

  1. The branches are essential in German Easter celebrations as well. We put them in a vase, and hang all manner of Easter decorations on them (blown-out painted eggs, etc). Actually, Germany has lots of these little seasonal, festive, creative rituals, which are designed to be done by parents together with their kids. It seems that there’s not much of this kind of thing going on in the UK, which I’ve always found a bit of a shame.

    • Debbie says:

      Yes, we don’t do much at Easter apart from eat chocolate! Probably the only time were creative in that way is Halloween and Christmas.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  2. BonMinou says:

    Oh, so pretty! I will have to wander over there someday!

    • Debbie says:

      It’s really worth it. I was meeting friends afterwards or I would have bought lots of flowers to take home. I will be back.

      On Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 10:01 PM, Travel with Intent wrote:

      >

  3. Arija says:

    The pussy willows are also an old Easter and before that, pagan tradition.On Palm Sunday morning mother used to go around to each child’s bed and beat upon the quilt with a bunch of them with the incantation that one should grow round like the pussy willow. Winters were hard and food not plentiful and by the end of them, everyone was rather slim.
    Now, of course, with fast foods at every corner, that is the last thing we wish for.

    • Debbie says:

      Thanks for that – amazing how much history / tradition these pretty things have.

      On Sun, Apr 27, 2014 at 6:56 AM, Travel with Intent wrote:

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  4. Arija says:

    Oops, I meant to say Latvian tradition

  5. I’m a big fan of pussywillows! Definitely a sign of spring where I live north of Toronto!

  6. Vidya Sury says:

    So beautiful! I’ve never seen these. They do look like silk buds! I enjoyed reading about the tradition around them. :)
    Here from Sundays in my City.

  7. Judy says:

    I love pussy willows and the history lesson.

  8. startraci says:

    So pretty — Spring indeed!
    Did not know about that tradition in Poland – haha! :-)
    Traci

  9. So so beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing the love up-close with I Heart Macro:-)

  10. Hannah says:

    Wow, lots of interesting information about pussy willows that I did not know. My father-in-law loved them and always gave us some for dried arrangements. Someone had a lovely weeping on on their blog recently.

  11. unknownmami says:

    They remind me of a boom my daughters like very much were they are featured.

  12. I love pussy willows. Thanks for all the information!

  13. Molly says:

    I love Pussy Willow… always reminds me of my Grandmother

    Mollyxxx

  14. Cinella says:

    WOAH! I’ve never seen or heard of these! It would be awesome to visit some day. I wonder if they grow in the US.

  15. Such a wonderful sign of spring.

  16. indrani says:

    All bunched together, makes very interesting pictures. These traditions are new to me.
    Great read.

  17. Roger says:

    Always liked these, especially to feel them.

  18. Cris says:

    It`s great to read about these traditions all over the world! In Romania, religious people get pussy willow from church before Easter. It`s supposed to bring health and joy in the family.

  19. artmusedog says:

    Wonderful post and great photos for P ~ Love the pussy willows!

    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

  20. Terrific post….the collection of the budded branches is beautiful♪ http://lauriekazmierczak.com/pixeled-park/

  21. I always try and find a bunch of them to display in the Spring. So pretty!

  22. Sue Anderson says:

    I am really a fan of pussy willows. When I can find them, I add them to the bucket of similar stalks and flowers I keep in the living room. =)

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