Goat Willow Hedging – Salix Caprea
Salix caprea, commonly known as Goat Willow or Pussy Willow, is a native deciduous tree or shrub in the UK, celebrated for its charming catkin flowers, adaptive qualities, and considerable benefits to wildlife.
Description and Characteristics
The Goat Willow typically grows to a height of 4-8 metres (13-26 feet) when used for hedging, but can reach up to 12 metres (39 feet) when grown as a standalone tree. Its broad, grey-brown bark is fissured in mature specimens, and the oval leaves are green on top, with a grey, downy underside.
This hardy plant has a moderate growth rate, typically adding 30-60cm (12-24 inches) per year, and can live for up to 300 years in optimal conditions.
Flowering, Fruits, and Reproduction
One of the first trees to bloom in early spring, Goat Willow is widely recognised for its silvery, furry catkins (thus the name Pussy Willow), which later turn yellow as they release pollen. These are followed by green, capsule-like fruits that split open to release numerous cotton-like seeds.
The flowers are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are on separate trees. The male catkins are yellow and the female ones are green and less conspicuous.
Benefits to Wildlife
The Goat Willow offers notable benefits to wildlife. Its early blooming catkins are an essential source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. The leaves are a food source for caterpillars of several moth species, while the seeds are eaten by birds.
Ideal for British Gardens
The Goat Willow is a great choice for British gardens due to its early spring interest, resilience, and adaptability to different growing conditions. It can tolerate poor soil and a range of pH levels, and it thrives in full sun or partial shade.
As a hedging plant, it creates a dense, windproof barrier, but it can also serve as a specimen tree. Its catkins bring early spring charm, making it a popular choice for wildlife and woodland gardens.
Distribution in the UK
As a native species, Goat Willow is common throughout the UK, found in woodlands, hedgerows, and scrubland.
In summary, the Goat Willow, with its early blossoms, adaptability, and substantial benefits to wildlife, is a fantastic choice for British garden designs. Whether you’re looking to create a wildlife-friendly garden, an attractive hedge, or simply want an early-blooming tree, Salix caprea is an excellent option.