Observation from Moses Tcheripanoff:
Sitting on the south side of Wasilla Lake happen to notice these plants blooming second week of November.
Comments from LEO Editors:
Around this time last year, budding willows caught the attention of Anchorage Daily News reporters. They contacted University of Alaska Anchorage research botanist Justin Fulkerson to learn more about the unusual timing. Justin shared with reporters that the willows were blooming in response to unusually warm fall temperatures. Temperatures during October 2020 were 1.3 degrees above normal, compared to 6.95 degrees above normal in 2019, but are apparently warm enough to trigger willows in to budding!
Woody plants pre-form their buds over winter. Opening buds too late in the season may cause the plant to bud later than usual in the spring, or produce fewer buds than normal. Delayed spring budding for willows might cause some animals to miss out on the important spring nutrition that the catkins provide. However, the fuzzy exterior helps provide some protection from cold air temperatures. In an observation about willows budding unusually early in the spring, Katie Spellman writes:
"I also learned that the fuzz on the catkins (those soft white hairs) can actually trap heat, and keep the bud warmer than the air temperature when the sun is not hitting it (Krog 1955)! This is good news, because early flowering puts plants at a greater risk of frost damage. The pussy willow fuzz adds protection from that risk. The bad news is, if the buds have popped open and ptarmigan haven’t come through yet, they lose out on some of the nutrition of the buds (mostly lipids) which are spent by the willow plant developing the catkin. Timing is everything!"