Goat Willow

Salix caprea

Salix caprea is commonly called the Goat Willow, Pussy Willow or Great Sallow. It is native to Europe and western and central Asia. It is a small deciduous tree or large shrub rarely exceeding 10 meters in height. The flowers are soft, silvery and silky catkins. The mature yellow male catkins are on one tree, and the green female ones on another. The tiny seeds are hairy and dispersed by the wind and only germinate in bare soil.

It is often found on river banks and damp areas, but also drier areas, anywhere that soil has been disturbed. It is a food source for some butterflies and moths and is browsed by mammals.

Funky Facts File: The scientific name caprea is derived from the Latin for goat, probably derived from an early illustration in Hieronymus Bock’s Herbal (1546) where it is shown being browsed by a goat. Historically it has been used for that very purpose. Its bark is a source of tannin but also of salicin, long used as an inflammatory and the base to aspirin.