Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!
Dioecious [dahy-EE-shuh s] (adjective): A characteristic where a plant species has male and female reproductive organs on separate plants.
After a long winter, nature has many different ways of letting us know that spring has arrived. One of these exciting signs of spring is the flowering pussy willows! Pussy willows are dioecious and, as such, there are both male plants and female plants which can look quite different.
When we think of pussy willow blooms, one of the first things that comes to mind are those soft and fuzzy silver hair. Believe it or not, those showy silvery hairs can only really be seen on the male plants and are, in fact, their flowering parts!
So what about the females? Well, female pussy willows will also have some funky flowers but, rather than the soft silvery look, their flowers will look more like hairy greenish caterpillars.
The fact that the pussy willow blooms so early makes it a very valuable source of food for much of the wildlife in High Park. The early blooms provide one of the first-of-the-season sources of nectar for pollinators. The insects that they attract in turn, will attract songbirds, which are looking for a healthy protein-packed meal.
Look for the beautiful pussy willow blooms, in High Park, from both the female and male plants this April!