Also known as the pussy willow, the male catkins of the goat willow look like a cat’s paws and are extremely soft to the touch. It is these catkins that are on show right now, one of the best places to catch sight of them in Otley is along the river but can be found growing in woodland, hedgerows and scrub, it especially likes damp open ground. Goat willows are extremely valuable to wildlife, their foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of a number of moths and is also the main food plant for the purple emperor butterfly, many birds know this and will seek out Goat Willows to forage for caterpillars and insects. As the tree can live for 300 years, this is a hell of a lot of wildlife helped along the way.
By River Six