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Nature Notebook – Pussy Willow

The fuzzy “toes” of the pussy willow are one of our favorite spring touching activities. Those soft hairs have a function other than providing our tactile delight.

The fuzzy hairs trap air heated by the sun against the flower’s developing reproductive parts. The warm air protects the pollen- and ovule-producing organs if the early spring temperatures are too cool. It also accelerates the development of the pollen and ovules.

The flower is arranged like a corn cob, with rows of pollen-holding anthers or rows of pollen-catching carpels. Each anther or carpel has a fuzzy silvery hair attached to it. The “toe” resemblance disappears when the flower is in full bloom and the anthers and carpels are longer than the hairs.

But, then, you can have fun watching the honeybees that are drawn in by the flower’s strong nectar aroma.