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:
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
… 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
Alder, this one is Alnus glutinosa
Willow, this is goat willow, Salix caprea
Oak, an example would be Quercus robur
Walnut, this example is Juglans mandschurica
Poplar: This is a 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)