Salix caprea (Goat Willow, also known as the Pussy Willow or Great Sallow), is a common species of willow native to Europe and western and central Asia. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree, reaching a height of 8-10 m, rarely to 13 m. The leaves are 3-12 cm long and from 2-8 cm wide, broader than most other willows. The flowers are soft silky, silvery 3-7 cm long catkins, produced in early spring before the new leaves appear; the male and female catkins are on different plants.
The stems are very flexible and are used in basket making; The plant is usually coppiced annually when grown for basket making, though it is possible to coppice it every two years if thick poles are required as uprights.
The bark is tough and flexible, it is used as a substitute for leather;
The bark contains around 10% tannin;
The plant is fast growing and tolerant of maritime exposure, it can be used as a windbreak hedge and shelterbelt though it is of untidy habit;
The seeds are very light and so can travel some distance in the wind. The plant is therefore able to find its way to areas such as cleared woodland where the soil has been disturbed. Seedlings will grow away quickly, even in exposed conditions and the plant will provide good shelter for the establishment of woodland plants. Thus it makes a good pioneer species and, except in wetter and moorland-type soils, will eventually be largely out-competed by the other woodland trees. Its main disadvantage as a pioneer plant is that it has an extensive root system and is quite a greedy plant, thus it will not help as much in enriching the soil for the other woodland plants as other pioneer species such as the alders, Alnus species;
Some cultivars can be grown as ground cover; 'Pendula' is female whilst 'Kilmarnock' is a male, they should be spaced about 1.5 metres apart each way;
Wood - soft, elastic, easily split. Used for baskets, rugs etc; A good quality charcoal is made from the wood;