From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A catkin or ament is a slim, cylindrical flower cluster, with inconspicuous or no petals, usually wind-pollinated (anemophilous) but sometimes insect-pollinated (as in Salix). They contain many, usually unisexual flowers, arranged closely along a central stem which is often drooping. They are found in many plant families, including Betulaceae, Fagaceae, Moraceae, and Salicaceae. For some time, they were believed to be a key synapomorphy among the proposed Hamamelididae, but it is now believed that this flower arrangement has arisen independently by convergent evolution on a number of occasions.[citation needed]

In many of these plants only the male flowers form catkins, and the female flowers are single (hazel, oak), a cone (alder) or other types (mulberry). In other plants (such as poplar) both male and female flowers are borne in catkins.

Catkin-bearing plants include many other trees or shrubs such as birch, willow, hickory, sweet chestnut and sweetfern (Comptonia).

The word catkin is a loanword from the old Dutch katteken, meaning "kitten", on account of the resemblance to a kitten's tail.[1] Ament is from the Latin amentum, meaning "thong" or "strap".[2]

Young male catkin of a willow 
Male catkins of Ostrya carpinifolia 
Three male catkins on a willow (Salix sp.) 
A male flowering catkin on a willow (Salix sp.) 
Male Hazel catkins (Corylus avellana
Female flowering catkin on a willow (Salix sp.) 


  1. ^ "Catkin", Oxford English Dictionary (Second ed.), 1989, retrieved 30 November 2009 
  2. ^ "Ament", Oxford English Dictionary (Second ed.), 1989, retrieved 30 November 2009