Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys'
Common Name: rose-gold pussy willow 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Salicaceae
Zone: 5 to 7
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Deep purplish black with red anthers
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Wet Soil, Black Walnut


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 5-7 where it is best grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers full sun. Thrives in moist soils, but tolerates somewhat drier soils better than most other willows. Intolerant of dry soils. Prune as needed in late winter to early spring. Plants may be cut to the ground every 3-5 years to maintain a smaller shrub shape.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salix gracilistyla, commonly known as rosegold pussy willow, is a dioecious, weak-wooded, erect-spreading, deciduous shrub to 6-10’ tall. It is native to China, Japan and Korea. Catkins (tiny flowers in dense clusters) appear each year in March-April before the leaves unfold. Catkins (to 1 1/2” long) on male plants are a showy silky gray with contrasting rose and gold anthers. Catkins on female plants are a less showy greenish-yellow. Catkins purportedly resemble the pads on a cat’s paw, hence the common name. Young shoots are downy-gray. Oval leaves (2-4” long to 1 1/4” wide) are gray-green above and glaucous-silky-pubescent beneath, turning yellow in autumn.

Genus name is the Latin name for this plant.

Specific epithet from Latin means having a slender style.

Cultivar name comes from melano meaning black and stachys meaning spike in reference to the black catkins.

‘Melanostachys’, often commonly called black catkin willow or black pussy willow, is a cultivar that was introduced to Europe from Japan in 1950. It is primarily distinguished from the species by its dark, almost black male spring catkins which are highlighted by showy red anthers. Anthers gradually turn yellow with pollen. Winter stems are an attractive purplish black. Ovate, finely-toothed leaves (to 4” long) are dark green above and silver green beneath.


Susceptible to numerous disease problems including blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots, gray scab and cankers. It is also visited by many insect pests including aphids, scale, borers, lacebugs and caterpillars. Wood is weak and may crack. Branches may be damaged by ice and snow. Litter from leaves, twigs and branches may be a problem. Shallow roots may clog sewers or drains and make gardening underneath the plants difficult.


If growing this plant as an ornamental, make sure to purchase a male plant which will produce the showy late winter/early spring catkins. This pussy willow may be grown in moist soils along streams, ponds or in low spots in the landscape where other shrubs or small trees may falter. It will also grow in average garden soils. Plants may be regularly cut back for use as a hedge. Stems with catkins may be cut in spring for indoor arrangements. Must be planted in areas protected from wind, snow cover and ice, all of which can easily do significant damage to the weak-wood branches.

‘Melanostachys’ may only be found in commerce in male forms.