Catkins are already appearing on trees and Shrubs, infact earlier than ever. So what are catkins? Well they are a cylindrical flower clusters with inconspicuous petals. They are usually pollinated by the wind,(anemophilous) but in the case of Salix caprea "the pussy willow" which are pollinated in the conventional way by insects. The name catkin is derived from German or Dutch words meaning kitten, as they resemble a kitten's tail.Their job is to enable the plants to reproduce via male and female catkins and the tranferance of their pollen leading to fruit or seed production.Alot of trees and shrubs with catkins are monoecious which they have male and female flowers on the same plant. However that doesn't mean that they are self-fertile, they are still reliant from the transfer of pollen from one tree's male pollen to another's female's flowers. Pussy Willow or (Salix caprea) the fine evergreen shrub Garrya eliptica, and Poplar (populous alba) are dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants. Certain trees or shrubs with catkins once their flowers have been pollinated grow into fruit such as Oaks (querus) with acorns or Hazels (corylus,) Sweet chesnuts (castanea sativa) with edible nuts. These fall to the ground or are taken by squirrels and buried in the soil. From where as seed they can germinate to produce new plants. With trees such as Willows (Salix) Birches (betula) and after pollination their flowers become tiny seeds. In the case of the willow they are covered in a white downy material which helps them to float upon the wind. Birches have tiny wings on their many seeds which also help them to travel through the air.Alder tree (alnus glutinosa) catkins produce a cone-like fruit to hold their seed.The male catkins are generally longer than their female counterparts. So in the next couple of months it will be the time to look for these natural wonders in hedgerows, woodland or in domestic gardens. They are one of the surest signs that new life is on the horizon, and spring is getting nearer.