How pussy willow got its name from little kittens

According to old English folktales, once upon a time in a long forgotten village, many little kittens were cruelly thrown into a river to drown. The helpless mother cat wept and was so tormented by the uncertain faith of her kittens that the willows on the bank felt compassion and held out their branches to the struggling kittens.

Luckily the little kittens managed to clung to the branches and were saved. Ever since that time, comes each Spring, the willow trees put out silvery grey buds that feel as soft and silky as the coats of little “pussies” and gain the affectionate name of ‘pussy willows’. Other time of the year, the willow trees are called by their normal names of over 400 species. Whatever the species, the trunks always serve as a good scratching post for a good ‘cat-scratch’.

The celebrated appearance of the silky ‘pussies’ is one of the earliest signs of the arrival of spring. Many cultures welcome the new season with pussy willows incorporated into house decorations, spring festivals and religious ceremonies around the world. Chinese new year celebration is never complete without a few bunches of pussy willows proudly display in strategic corners of the house. Old world Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans carry pussy willows on Palm Sunday. Polish celebrates Dyngus (Easter Monday) observation with pussy willows.