Australia > All Weeds > Pussy Willow

Pussy Willow

Salix cinerea

Origin: Native to Eurasia and North Africa.


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Alternative Name(s): Grey Sallow.

Family: Salicaceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Streams and wetlands in temperate areas.

Edibility Rating: 0 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Deciduous, rapidly growing shrub or small tree to about 10 m tall. Mostly multistemmed.
Flowers: Plants male or female. Flower spikes are called catkins. Male catkins erect, golden yellow; female catkins green. Catkins appear with leaves in spring. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by erect form, presence of ridges under the bark, elliptic to ovate leaves and catkins.

Dispersal: Seed and pieces.

Confused With: Other species of Salix particularly Goat Willow, Salix caprea. See taxonomic texts for detailed distinguishing features.

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

Anodyne; Febrifuge. The fresh bark of all members of this genus contains salicin, which probably decomposes into salicylic acid (closely related to aspirin) in the human body. This is used as an anodyne and febrifuge. The bark of this species is used interchangeably with S. alba. It is taken internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, inflammatory stages of auto-immune diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, feverish illnesses, neuralgia and headache. The bark is removed during the summer and dried for later use. The leaves are used internally in the treatment of minor feverish illnesses and colic. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season and are used fresh or dried.

Other Uses

Pioneer; Soil stabilization. Plants have an extensive root system and are used to stabilize waste tips and old slag heaps. The seeds are very light and so can travel some distance in the wind. The plant is therefore able to find its way to areas such as cleared woodland where the soil has been disturbed. Seedlings will grow away quickly, even in exposed conditions and the plant will provide good shelter for the establishment of woodland plants. Thus it makes a good pioneer species and, except in wetter and moorland-type soils, will eventually be largely out-competed by the other woodland trees. Its main disadvantage as a pioneer plant is that it has an extensive root system and is quite a greedy plant, thus it will not help as much in enriching the soil for the other woodland plants as other pioneer species such as the alders, Alnus species.

Notes: Variable and hybridises with other Willows. Major weed of streams and wetlands in temperate areas. Extensively planted along roadsides for prevention of soil erosion. Two subspecies are recognised, Grey Sallow (subspecies cinerea) and Rusty Sallow (subspecies oleifolia). Grey Sallow has crisped hairs that are not rusty coloured and that remain on the lower surface of the leaf. Rusty Sallow has a scattering of rust-coloured hairs on the lower surface.



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