April 24, 2008


The spring-like weather has taken a decided step backwards today with rain and the temperature around 2°c. April showers bring May flowers. The rain is supposed to turn to snow later this afternoon. This will melt right into the ground and may turn out to be what is known as “the farmer’s snow”. This is the last snow you get in the spring which is also known as “poor man’s fertilizer”.

I took this photograph a few days ago of pussy willows just beginning to blossom. Here is one of the most familiar early signs of spring. Bunches of these now surface at our farmer’s market and in the hands of little children trundling off to school. Pussy willows are really the flowers of the shrub American Pussy Willow (Salix discolour) which is native to North America.

Actually, I need to be less specific about this because here in New Brunswick there are about 30 different species of Willow (Salix spp.) which are either native or introduced from Eurasia. Willows like water and will mostly be found in wet places – along the banks of streams or creeks for instance.

The fuzzy, soft gray catkins will blossom over the next few weeks with male and female flowers on separate trees. I once saw a time-lapse video of the pussy willows blooming and it could best be summed up in one word – SPROING!

Willows are one of those plants that have proven to be important to humankind for its medicinal properties. Native North Americans used willow bark for its pain relieving properties for hundreds of years. Willows contain salicin. In the late 1800’s the German company Bayer invented acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) which has been sold ever since as Aspirin.

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