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- Goat willow or goat sallow (Salix caprea), a small tree native to northern Europe and northwest Asia.
- Grey willow or grey sallow (Salix cinerea), a small tree native to northern Europe
- American pussy willow (Salix discolor), native to northern North America.
Before the male catkins of these species come into full flower they are covered in fine, greyish fur, leading to a fancied likeness to tiny cats, also known as “pussies”. The catkins appear long before the leaves, and are one of the earliest signs of spring. At other times of year trees of most of these species are usually known by their ordinary names.
Since the Chinese like numerous blossoms on a branch, the many buds of the pussy willow make it a favourite flower for Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year). The fluffy white blossoms of the pussy willow resemble silk, and they soon give forth young shoots the color of green jade. Chinese enjoy such signs of growth, which represent the coming of prosperity. Towards the Lunar New Year period in spring, stalks of the plant may be bought from wet market vendors or supermarkets.
Once unbundled within one's residence, the stalks are frequently decorated with gold and red ornaments - ornaments with colours and text that signify prosperity and happiness. Felt pieces of red, pink and yellow are also a common decoration in Southeast Asia.
Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox, Ruthenian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bavarian and Austrian Roman Catholics, Finnish and Baltic Lutherans and Orthodox and various other Eastern European peoples carry pussy willows on Palm Sunday instead of palm branches. This custom has continued to this day among Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Romanian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ruthenian Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Kashubian Catholic and Polish Catholic emigrees to North America. Sometimes, on Palm Sunday they will bless both palms and pussywillows in church. The branches will often be preserved throughout the year in the family's icon corner.
In popular fiction
In the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson the character Imogene Herdman argues with a girl named Alice over which of them will play the Virgin Mary in their school's upcoming Christmas Pageant. Imogene threatens to stick a pussy willow down Alice's ear where no one would be able to reach it. She said "And it'll sit there and grow and grow and grow. So for the rest of your life, there'll be a pussy willow bush growing out of your ear."