Steeped in folklore, willows come in many varieties and hybrid forms such as 'crack', 'creeping' and 'white' but without doubt, the one we all know and love is the 'goat' or 'pussy' willow (pictured)

In March, before the leaves open, golden male catkins grace the trees and act as a welcome source of nectar and pollen for early bees at a time when there are few flowers about.

On a sunny day the trees can seem alive with buzzing bees while grey squirrels can sometimes be seen sitting for long periods gorging on the catkins. Rose-ringed parakeets also savour them.

Female catkins are less showy and male and female catkins grow on separate trees and are wind and insect pollinated.

On Palm Sunday, bunches of male pussy willow catkins are often gathered to decorate churches.

Willows are useful in many ways. Cricket bats are manufactured from white willow; baskets are woven from willow wands and artificial limbs rely on the strength and lightness of the wood.

The 'weeping' willow is a native of China and was originally imported in the eighteenth century

One of our most beautiful and spectacular woodland butterflies, namely the purple emperor, lays its eggs mainly on pussy willow.