According to observations of naturalists and beekeepers.
Where are you?
Pussy willow is common throughout the southern half of Canada and the north-central and northeastern portions of the United States. The westernmost and southernmost distribution of pussy willow in the United States is not entirely clear. There is general agreement that pussy willow occurs from Montana and Wyoming east through Illinois, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Pussy willow is highly variable in its identifying characteristics. Typically it grows as a shrub or small tree to heights of up to 30 feet (8 m). Willows, in general, grow rapidly and produce extensive root systems. Pussy willow trunks may be single or clustered with stout ascending branches and branchlets. A large trunk circumference of 61.8 inches (157 cm) was reported for a North American pussy willow. The bark is slightly fissured and ridged. First-year pussy willow twigs are hairy but become glabrous with age. Twigs are flexible and average of 1.5 mm in diameter. Large buds (up to 1 cm long) are present and conspicuous along the stems.
Pussy willow leaves are deciduous, simple, and alternate. Leaf shape varies from oblong to elliptic, and blades are typically 2 to 5 times as long as they are wide. Blade length varies from 1.2 to 5.1 inches (3-13 cm), and petioles measure 0.2 to 0.8 inch (5-20 mm) long. Leaf margins are typically toothed, but the pattern is inconsistent. Flowers occur in dense catkins. Catkin buds are covered in dense silky hairs and are the best-known pussy willow feature. Mature fruiting female catkins are typically 1 to 4.7 inches (2.5-12 cm) long, while mature fruiting male catkins measure 0.6 to 2 inches (1.5-5 cm) long. Historic reports from an early beekeeper indicated that a single staminate pussy willow catkin contained 270 individual flowers and a pistillate catkin had 142 flowers. Neither the age nor location of the catkin-providing shrub was reported. Pussy willow produces long-necked capsule fruits that measure 0.2 to 0.5 inch (5-13 mm) long. Seeds are small (1.2-1.6 mm long and 0.5 mm in diameter) and have rings of short, stiff and long, silky hairs at the base.
Pussy willow flowers in early spring (March-May), and flowers appear before the leaves.