Willow catkins keep fallin’ on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red
Cryin’s not for me…

Actually, while I (thankfully) have never suffered from hay fever otherwise, there is something about willow catkins that does trigger mild symptoms if I sweep them up.
I suspect it’s simply the sheer number of things – that much of anything in the air would get up your nose and irritate your eyes.

As I mentioned in previous posts, willow catkins are Nuisance Four (of four) in the otherwise glorious season of spring.

You can see from the main photo that a beautiful goat willow (Salix caprea) overhangs the bottom of my back garden.

catkins, goat willow

You can see from the close-up how densely covered it gets with catkins.

And after the annual willow seed blizzards (previous post), they all fall down (atishoo, atishoo).


Willow catkins – a few facts

Willow trees produce either male catkins or female catkins. The latter are pollinated by the wind and develop the fluffy seeds that create the willow seed blizzards.

Goat willow is deciduous and a UK native. It is also a broadleaf – nothing like the weeping willow trees that everyone knows and can identify.

catkins, goat willow
This young marrow plant is getting a daily blanketing of willow catkins


Willow catkins are useful

Catkins provide an important early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and birds use goat willow to forage for caterpillars and other insects (source: the Woodland Trust ).

All the online advice on growing them, mind you, shows pictures of MALE catkins. I guess no one would recommend the willow seed blizzard experience you get from the females!

It’s the male catkins that carry the pollen, which adds to my theory that it’s the simply the vast quantity of the female ones that irritates my immune system. When I sweep up the mounds that are piling up on the pathways, I’ll wear a mask over my nose and mouth that I bought for jobs like painting and varnishing. And I’ll wear sunglasses to protect my eyes.

For now, there is no point sweeping them up, because it’s a dispiriting task. I could get kitted up, spend time doing it – but all the while, more would be falling. And five minutes after I’d cleared a path, it would look like it needed doing again.

One thought on “Cascades of willow catkins

  1. YUK! Ours are mostly done now. The garden varieties, including weeping willow, are not bad at all. It is the native red willow or swamp willow that makes all the mess, and it blows all over! I know it is not as bad as it is in other regions, but it is annoying nonetheless.


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