A Sure Sign of Spring

12, Feb, 2014 Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

It may be 5 degrees outside in the morning, and there may be another snow storm around the corner but the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way. I was reassured of this, the certainty of seasonal change and a lengthening day, just this morning when I found the first silvery buds on the willows.

The first opening bud on Salix bebbiana


Hamamalis vernalis on hold, waiting for warmer weather

These few silver tips emerging from tight reddish buds on the small willows (salix discolor and salix bebbiana) will open slowly over the next few weeks to become the soft, fur-like catkins we all remember from our childhood. By early March there should be a wonderful display of pussy willows – here in the middle of Boston in the Wharf District Park, next to the Harbor Island Pavilion and our own new Carousel. As the month warms and the plant is cajoled into new growth these buds get larger, and flower into soft, golden tipped, fluffy catkins. Until then you can enjoy the subtle jumble of red, shiny buds that will help you identify this spring’s display of pussy willows, as well as keep an eye open for the barely blooming Witch Hazel (Hamamalis vernalis), another late winter/early spring sensation.


Text and photographs by Darrah Cole