Catkins – Dancing, tumbling, pollen-laden heralds of spring

The other day as I came round the corner of the alley, the sun was shining directly behind a young hazel tree and light was being dispersed by long, bouncing catkins. I had my phone with me so I took a photo:


Hazel catkins, Corylus avellana

You can see a tiny red female flower glowing on the right, towards the bottom. Catkins always remind me of Dick Sanders, who was my RHS level 2 Horticulture lecturer. He loved quizzes and to prepare us for the short answer section of the exams he would punctuate dry theory sections with fast response tests to name 6 or 10 of something related to the topic: ten dry shade plants, six plants that grow in water etc. Catkins* came up when wind pollination was covered of course. But the test was a tough task, because once you’ve mentioned the obvious ‘hazel, willow and alder’ what’s next??? I struggled for one or two more, but didn’t get to six in time. Yes, you had only a minute to write them down.

In case you are interested and have been left hanging by the challenge, as I was, to get you to six I’ll give you: oak, walnut and poplar and in case you want to stetch it to ten there are also birch, mulberry, hornbeam, sweet chestnut. Amazing isn’t it? You probably knew most of them, but had never thought about it.

Since I was taking pictures of a golden alder the week before


Alder catkins, Alnus incana ‘Aurea’

…  I though that I would collate some catkin pictures to share, because catkins are harbingers of the spring and I am so looking forward to that. Due to their nature, catkins are often very transient features on the trees that they adorn and are easily missed. You might be more likely to notice them on the ground though, torn off by winds.

So here are six catkin producing trees (sorry, but my photos don’t extend to ten):

Hazel, Corylus avellana


Hazel, Corylus avellana

Alder, this one is Alnus glutinosa


Alder, Alnus glutinosa

Willow, this is goat willow,  Salix caprea


Willo, Salix caprea

Oak, an example would be Quercus robur


Oak, Quercus robur

Walnut, this example is Juglans mandschurica


Chinese walnut, Juglans mandschurica

Poplar: This is a black poplar, Populus nigra


Black poplar, Populus nigra

* Catkins  comes from the old Dutch word katteken, for kitten’s tail, but they are also referred to as aments (from the latin word amentum meaning strap)

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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15 Responses to Catkins – Dancing, tumbling, pollen-laden heralds of spring

  1. inesephoto says:

    I love these tiny flowers. They speak of spring 🙂

  2. Sue says:

    What beautiful flowers, I especially love the goat willow and black poplar, but that first photo is brilliant!

    • There’s nothing better than pussy willow, except maybe hazel catkins dancing in the wind. You don’t usually get to see black poplar flowers, since they are up so high, but when the winds bring them down they are revealed to be quite dramatic.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Great, informative and timely post!

  4. Brian Skeys says:

    The black popular catkins are both beautiful and unusual colour for a spring flower.

  5. Tina says:

    Lots of beauty in those tree flowers–and your photos! They really are the herald of spring!

  6. How lovely to see so many different catkins and, thank you, for the explanation of the name. Makes them even more adorable.

  7. Tooty Nolan says:

    Hazel Catkins – what great name for a character in one of my books. I must remember it.

  8. Pingback: Great Balls of Fire | Frogend dweller's Blog

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