‘Pussy willow’ will probably make some of the boys at the back of the class giggle immaturely, but it also sounds a bit like the sort of insult that gets thrown around on lo-fi videos of grime freestyles circa 2004 - and as we all know grime has never been Cooler As Certified By The Mainstream Music Press than it is right now… So give the pussywillo’ a break, alright?
After all, it’s not their fault that willow catkins, before developing their full flowering, are covered in a soft grey fur that resembles ‘pussies’ (as in the colloquial term for cute domesticated cats, I should add). Weirdly even the name is seasonal - the appearance of pussy willow is said to signify the start of spring and are rarely referred to as such throughout the rest of the year.
The pussy willow appears in a number of cultural traditions - they’re very popular in China around the time of their new year because the fluffy white blossoms resemble silk before giving way to shoots the colour of green jade. Because of this, they’re said to represent the coming of prosperity over the course of the coming year. Members of a number of Russian and Eastern European orthodox churches also carry pussy willows on Palm Sunday as well as/instead of palm branches - preserved throughout the year in a family’s icon corner of their church.
I think we can all agree though (outside of any particular religious affiliations) that the single greatest pussy willow-related moment comes in the 1994 film, Serial Mom. Written and directed by one of the greatest and most subversive filmmakers of his generation, John Walters, it stars Kathleen Turner as the titular character. Without spoiling it, the pussy willow plays a crucial role in the film, as Turner begins to leave clues to her identity for her neighbour to discover.