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Apr 10, 2017 12:17 PM CST
Thread OP
Eastern Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
This plant has been in our front yard, in a place where a shrub fits well, for many years. Maybe it is one of the many shrubs my wife purchased over the years. More likely it is a volunteer that looked right, so I didn't pull it.

Last few years, I have pruned it aggressively to get it down each year to about 5 feet high in late December or early January when its leaves drop. It is the last deciduous plant in the area to drop its leaves each year.

I probably never paid attention to it before in early spring, so I don't recall seeing these things emerge before the leaves. I don't have any idea what these structures are (I assume some reproductive role similar to flowers).

Thumb of 2017-04-10/jsf67/49c8d0

Is it a shrub? Is it a tree that I forced to stay shrub size with pruning?

Without leaves, a photo wouldn't show the whole plant very well. It is just thin branches with a few of these things on them. So I just provided this close up of the unusual (so far as I know) structures.
Apr 10, 2017 12:21 PM CST
Name: Deb
Planet Earth (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Ideas: Master Level
Looks like catkins of some sort - perhaps a pussy willow? Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Apr 10, 2017 12:48 PM CST
Perthshire. SCOTLAND. UK
Garden Photography Region: United Kingdom Plant Identifier
Agree Salix sp...common name willow.
Those structures are the flowers...commonly called catkins.
By pruning it hard in Dec/Jan you have in effect cut all the growing tip off where these would normally be.

There are 2 different types of catkins...male catkins that produce yellow pollen and female catkins.

Some willows have interesting black catkins.


Other willows have beautiful coloured, yellow black.
Apr 11, 2017 9:33 AM CST
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
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