I had my dog on a walk Friday afternoon and noticed that the pussy willow trees had bloomed overnight in my neighborhood. These fuzzy little blooms are usually one of the first to show themselves when spring arrives, and I always get really excited to see them.

While most willow trees tend to be associated with sadness, this version of willow has positive connotations. These flowers are thought to symbolize goodwill and motherhood and are also seen as protection for the home. As part of that "protection", they are sometimes given as gifts to new home owners.

Ever wonder how the pussy willow got its name? There is an old Polish story that details the tree rescuing some kittens:

 In this story a willow tree heard a poor mother cat crying as her kittens were drowning in a river. The tree took pity on her and swept its branches down into the water and rescued the kittens, who fiercely clung to the tree. Ever since then, whenever spring rolls around, small billowy blossoms sprout from the spots where the kittens held on.

On a personal level, I have fond memories associated with these plants. As a kid, my mom would always have my sister and I cut off a few branches from the tree in our yard, spray them down with hairspray, and use them as part of floral arrangements in our house. We would also cut and deliver them to friends who didn't have their own tree to cut from. As an adult, they signify to me that spring is here, change is in the air, and I should probably stock up on Claritin because seasonal allergies are going to be hitting soon. Happy spring!

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