Goat willow, also known as pussy willow (Salix caprea), is a tall, native tree that bears fluffy male catkins before the leaves unfurl, in spring. It's a fantastic tree for wildlife, supporting a wide range of species, including queen bumblebees, tits, and caterpillars of moths and butterflies, including the purple emperor butterfly (Apatura iris).
Goat willow trees can grow to 12m and can live for up to 300 years. They can also be grown as hedges. They have grey-brown bark which develops diamond-shaped fissures with age. The oval, green-grey leaves are coated with a fine down on the underside and are pointed at the tip.
Goat willow isn't typically used as a garden tree, however Salix caprea 'Kilmarnock' is a compact cultivar of the goat willow and considered more garden-worthy.
Where to buy Salix caprea
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Salix is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies/moths and other pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant, has nectar/pollen rich flowers, is used for nesting materials, provides shelter and habitat, has seeds for birds and makes a good wildlife hedge.