One of the first signs of spring are the arrival of catkins on trees and shrubs. What is a catkin? It’s actually a flower, which can be either wind pollinated or insect pollinated. The word catkin comes from the Dutch word for kitten, “katteken”, because the flowers are long and cylindrical and look like a kitten’s tail. Catkins form on these trees: oak, alder, birch, poplar, beech, hornbeam, sweet chestnut, hazel, and willow. Here is a photographic tour of the catkins blooming in my yard right now:
First, Salix (willow). This is Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt Aso’ (see my previous post on pink pussywillows.) These pussy willow catkins started pink, turned gray, and now are yellow, fluffy, and covered in pollen. The shrub is buzzing with mason bees right now, as these are insect pollinated catkins.
The next catkins are on one of the more interesting trees in my yard. It is a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, i.e., a contorted filbert (Hazelnut) tree. My variety is rare due to the red/maroon foliage and pink catkins. It is Coryllus avellana ‘Red Majestic’. This is a slow growing tree, and I love the gnarled branches. In 10 years, this tree will be amazing. I planted it as a tiny starter about 6 years ago.
Enjoy your ultra early signs of spring!